By Marty Cain
When he was young, my uncle bought a gun.
He drove miles off road to kill himself,
drunk in the desert, but changed
his mind, instead perfecting his skills
as a marksman, shooting cacti
& the veil of clouds.
He sobered up. He drove the car
with four flats slowly back through sand,
went home, enrolled in college.
If I wanted to do the same,
I could only stumble through trees
in knee-deep snow until I reached
the pond, walk far out
on thin ice. I’d pray I’d fall through
a hole, & in the middle of changing
my mind, I’d take up ice fishing. I’d hide
from my wife all morning, shiver as I poured
beers down my throat, a baited line hanging
to catch the only things left alive.
I skated that pond on the millennial eve,
sat with my family on milk crates under clear stars.
We drank champagne from paper cups,
toasted, & heard a low moan. A crack
shot under our feet. We panicked, skating for shore.
Ice cracks when it expands. We didn’t know.
What does it take to find direction?
Every three years I’ve walked through
a different doorway, down a new hallway
with dim fluorescent lights & a dusty heater,
always to a larger room. A light flickers
through the crack below the door, like some
great fireplace coughing in the room beyond,
spreading shadows across the slanted ceiling.
There’s a mirror on every wall,
& I walk by and say out loud,
Who’s that? Who’s the wise guy?
When I was ten, I nailed a plank
to a stump on the hill behind my house.
I called it the thinking platform, designated
introspection spot. I want to go
back, speak to that boy sitting cross-legged
with eyes closed. I wish I could say to him,
There is no one place you can store your thoughts,
no place safe enough to call home.
But at risk of traumatizing my ten-year old self,
I would only hide in the trees & watch him
sitting there, softly humming, pretending
to meditate, his young mind clear
as it ever was,
& ever will be.