In Youngstown, Ohio, when I was eighteen,
my first husband bought me a starter’s pistol,
silver and black, from the department store
on Federal Street. It came with a box
of little bullets—blanks.
For my protection, he said,
though I didn’t know what I needed
protection from, other than him, and he didn’t
show me how to use it.
He called it a lady gun, small—which fit
my hand perfectly—and solid,
like a real gun,
like the unexpected weight of a snake.
I tossed it into my shoulder bag,
where it stayed for the next ten years,
among keys, pens, pots of lip gloss,
the black paint gradually chipping.
Back in New York City, I was robbed
of my dead grandmother’s gold necklace;
the thief did a snatch and run.
I was too startled to take the pistol out,
besides it wasn’t useful for anything except
deterrence, those crack
cocaine years when deterrence didn’t work.
Over time, the gun felt heavier.
I had shed the husband and I needed to shed
the pistol, didn’t want to admit ownership,
but guns were illegal
in New York City. I couldn’t just
leave it on the street, like a no-longer-wanted
couch. I don’t remember how I finally
threw the gun away, only that I did and then
forgot I had, and years later went riffling
through my desk drawers.
I only fired the pistol once—drove
to the woods and pulled the trigger,
wanting to see if it worked.
It did and it was loud.
SUSANA H. CASE is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Dead Shark on the N Train, from Broadstone Books, 2020, which won a Pinnacle Book Award for Best Poetry Book and a NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite. She is also the author of five chapbooks. Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press and she has also been translated into Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Case is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City and can be reached at www.susanahcase.com.
Congratulations on another hard-hitting poem, Susana. I especially like the line about the couch.