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Rifle

Read by T.J. Jarrett

The wooden parts are known as furniture,
as though a rifle were a room and the stock
a place to set a bowl and pull a chair
up to; or a bedside stand to hold a clock

that we’ll watch flashing through the afternoon
as we lie sleepless, set apart from time;
or the bed itself, from which, though our cocoon
of blankets smothers us, we will not climb.

Because we can’t. Because the bed is not
a bed at all, but a rifle, or part of one,
and not the part that kills—the bolt hand-wrought,
the barrel blued and glinting in the sun—

but rather it’s the lovely part we hold
against our cheek. Once the sap-soaked heart
of a walnut tree—now polished, stained, and cold—
it is a tool, a terror, a work of art.

Nick McRae is the author of The Name Museum (C&R Press, 2014) and Mountain Redemption (Black Lawrence Press, 2013), as well as editor of Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets (Sundress Publications, 2013). His poems have appeared in Cincinnati Review, Measure, The Southern Review, Verse Daily, and other journals and anthologies. He serves as associate editor of 32 Poems and is Robert B. Toulouse Doctoral Fellow in English at the University of North Texas.