Lady Gun/ poem by Susana H. Case

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

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