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Mercy Me

                                    Brynn Saito

Once when I was young my uncle took me out
to the shooting range near the eastern hills
and my cousin and I took turns
ripping up a paper target: first with a shotgun,
then with a rifle, then a semi-automatic—
that big black piece of fire that shot back
into our loose shoulders when we handled it.
It was fall in the valley and very cold.
Fog and gray light blurred the heart
and set the mind towards a thick silence.

Yesterday the earth shook so hard
it tilted off its own axis.
I thought of the way the body kneels
before bark but only if the bark resembles
the face of God. I thought of the man
who claws for my body but only on Wednesdays
when the sky breaks open and shakes down
a black rain. I learned something about
the beautiful blue vein of seduction
that runs alongside everything deadly
on that late valley morning
when I stood beside my uncle
with a rifle in the crook of my girl arm.
We were sheltered by a family
of sycamores. They seemed dead to me
with their naked and dark-spotted bending.
They weren’t dead. They were waiting.

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