top of page

Insult to Injury

Insult to Injury
00:00 / 01:57

I find an old air gun
and a can of ammo
down in the basement
in a cardboard moving box,
along with some other stuff,
flotsam from previous lives.
A teenager, a long-expired
me, used it to polish off 
tins cans in the backyard,
and once a bright, golden 
oriole, shot in mid-song, 
blowing a hole through me
as it fell. Holding a pistol 
is like shaking hands
with death. What the hell, 
let’s see if the damn thing 
still works. In the same box,
a volume of poetry, slim,
but not slim enough,
by a poet I never liked—
all smoke and mirrors—
a poet utterly, brutally 
forgotten, although a blurb 
on the back still calls his book
“an astonishing debut.” 
I prop it against the wall,
pump, load, cock, and Blam
goes the gun as it hasn’t
in half-a-century. I inspect 
the astonishing debut. 
The pellet, as it happens,
made it farther than I ever did, 
stopping on page sixty-two, 
just deep enough to dimple,
not tear, a sonnet on the guy’s
divorce, how his wife ran off 
with his best friend, how terrible 
the betrayal, how deep his grief.
How losing her tore out his soul.
And now this.

—from the Rattle Chapbook Prize winner, Cheap Motels of My Youth

Insult to Injury

“As a general rule I don’t recommend shooting books of poetry. Or anything else, for that matter. But in this case I made an exception.”

Share this poem to your social media page:

  • Insult to Injury
bottom of page