First time firing a shotgun – a kind of Sunday school poem


It’s Sunday and I’m reminded of the first time
I fired a shotgun: single-barrel, old as a tree, and heavy
as a weavers beam. The stock, cored-out
and lead-weighted to counteract recoil.

Now I’m skinny, maybe 100 pounds at the time of my
thirteenth or fourteenth year, and I’m working hard
to hold the bloody thing horizontal, level it
at the side of our red barn, sixty cubits away.

But praise to the hours of forking cow shit onto a sled,
flinging bales, milking, butchering, stacking, drawing
water from the wadi for the pigs,
running loaves out to my brothers in the field,

I had the sinew needed to steady the forend with the cup
of my left hand, move the butt back against my shoulder,
press the smooth-bore barrel to my cheek, elevate my elbow,
and I had the pluck to pick myself up off the ground,

and give it a second try: to cradle the gun snug,
without the greenhorn freeze, and squeeze the wishbone.
No matter. My shoulder went purple and took two weeks to clear,
and my right ear rang into my pillow for a few febrile nights.

Although I should mention here, that I stayed standing.
Sure, I did a stutter-step back, but I held, half-defiant,
blinking into an acrid acre of newly-blued air, and wondering
if it was laughter that rose up from the valley of Elah.

But the barn was not Goliath of Gath, and the firearm
resting on my hipbone was not a sling, and the shells
were not five smooth stones, and I’ve not been called since
to use this skill to vanquish any broad-sided Philistines.


  1. You triggered a memory, Steve, of my first 12 gauge experience at about the same age and size:

    I thought that I could,
    I remember it well,
    From the path where I stood,
    To the ditch where I fell!

  2. Sam, For me, where all hunting and trapping gear came from…the Konkels. Although that particular gun may have belonged to Garry Z. (The targeted barn was on Jonat’s farm.)

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