Gun Appreciation Day

January 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Detail from Liza Lou's Kitchen, a full size replica made of tiny beads.

Detail from Liza Lou’s Kitchen, a full size replica made of tiny beads.

I decided to have a chat with my imaginary gun on America’s first Gun Appreciation Day. I know that January 19 was chosen as a fuck-you to our better-than-most President, who has proposed gun control in response to the deaths of 20 children, but guns are a vast territory, an American wet dream, and I am not immune.

My gun is red, dirt-cheap, and can’t shoot straight due to hungry-ghost emotional problems. Her name is Christine, after the deceased wife of an ex-lover who once told me (Christine, not the faithless husband) that she was a rock-ribbed Texan with a powerful & persistent fantasy of shooting men. She was drunk at the time and reminded me of my Aunt June, the lesbian feminist writer, who was also very intelligent, charismatic, obsessive, Texan, profoundly angry at men and drank too much.

“So what do you think about Gun Appreciation Day?”
“It ought to be a national holiday.”
“Why’s that?”
“So women and children can stay home from work and school, hide in the trees.”
“Good idea. I’ll write the President. But about today—you think I should take you out to dinner? Buy you chocolates?”
“Shoot him.”

We all know who “him” is. He, too, was once real but is on the way to becoming imaginary. It’s harder when they’re still alive, but I can do it. I’m like the artist Liza Lou who spent five years creating a portrait of her kitchen out of tiny beads. Bead, words: very similar. It’s why I bought too many of the former, being accustomed to an infinite number of the latter, but that’s another story. The takeaway is: five years. Obsessive focus. An exact replica, but utterly different. Liza Lou’s “Kitchen” was so beautiful it made my whole body light up.

I answered Christine. “As you once said, I’m a mousy sort of person. I can’t shoot anyone and I don’t want to. I understand that the moment of aiming the gun, pulling the trigger, seeing the man fall might be a thrill, but one minute later I’d be terrified of being caught, mauled by guilt, and I’d miss knowing he was alive, much as I hate to admit it—.”

“Shoot the other one, then.”

“Ditto, except I wouldn’t miss her.”

“Then put me back in your subconscious where you have her staked out naked in the sand for the red ants and the pterodactyls, where you’ve installed control-bots in his brain so you can make him cry like the proverbial girl whenever he’s criticized at work, and be inundated by images of drunken chimpanzees watching porn at moments of attempted passion.”

“That was last year. I don’t have those fantasies anymore.” This isn’t true, but I don’t have them quite as often. I also imagine hammering nails into their foreheads, filling their orifices with cement, and weaving a spell to make radioactive worms crawl out of the flesh of their faces.

“Once a fantasy, always a fantasy.”

“That’s what my friend Lisa said. She thinks gun control is admirable but doomed because there are already 10 billion guns out there.”

“Exactly. Your past fantasies never leave you. They build character, as it were. You’re stuck with me, and someday I’ll shoot someone.”

In the leg, maybe. Her bullets always spin sideways and down. “You’ll shoot me.”

“That would be my first choice.”

“I like you, you know, now that you’re dead.”

“You don’t like me, you like your imaginary gun. It soothes your overwhelming awareness of your own powerlessness.”

“I’ve accepted that. I never liked power anyway. I wanted it, but having it made me feel lonely and guilty. What I really wanted was to be in a big love-fest with the world, Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in the class.”

“You’ve accepted it maybe 1%,” she sneered in that special way only a gun can do, the lip of the barrel lifting an eighth of an inch.

“I’m trying to appreciate you, you stupid gun.”

“You’ll never appreciate me. You have no idea. In life, in death, my experiences are beyond the horizon of your mouse-sized imagination.”

“This is also true of the lives of dung beetles, Iranian clerics, and rich men who buy little girls.”

“Try harder.”

“I could get an assault rifle bra, but I prefer writing.”

“You’re way too old to wear Lady Gaga’s bra and look anything but ridiculous.”

“Sometimes I miss being so full of hatred. It had fire and teeth. Now everything feels pointless. Posthumous. I listen to the newscasters gabble and I think: does anybody really care what the new social trends are? Why don’t we all avert our eyes in embarrassment? America, America. You want to shoot the way other people want to fuck. You want to be free to kill your children or other people’s children, or the neighbor’s dog or your ex-lover. You’d shoot the stars out of the sky if your guns were long enough. America, your poets forgive you and then die, and you just keep getting stupider. What are we going to do about you?”

“How about if we just shoot some cans in the backyard? Okay? This conversation is depressing the fuck out of me.”

“I talk to cats, to the dead, to the figments of my imagination. Don’t deny me simple pleasures.”

The gun squirmed and jerked, knocking itself off the bureau into the kitty litter. She’s going to shoot my cat in the ass, I thought. Bury herself and wait…the bitch…but what can you expect from a gun named Christine? (I assume you’ve all read Stephen King’s novel of that name. No? Hint: King’s Christine is a 1958 Plymouth Fury, but, oh, so much more than that.)

I stuffed her back into the primordial ooze and thought about applying to a writer’s colony in Wyoming.

Never imagine that you know what you will be like in the future, I read recently. What you hate now, what you fear now, what you crave now…it will all be different. Except, of course, that it won’t all be different, just some of it will be, and you don’t know which parts. Isn’t it delightful that the future offers nothing to the present moment, that it is unmade, wide open, that you are suspended in fog and see and hear only a minute fraction of what’s happening around you and inside you; that you are almost (but not quite) an unplanned Lego monstrosity created by a bored 7-year-old boy who will soon kick you to pieces and turn off the light?


The Children’s Hour

Soldiers with guns are at our door again.
Sister, quick. Change into a penny.
I’ll fold you in a handkerchief,
put you in my pocket
and jump inside a sack,
one of the uncooked rice.

Brother, hurry. Turn yourself
into one of our mother’s dolls
on the living room shelf. I’ll be the dust
settling on your eyelids.

The ones wearing wings are in the yard.
The ones wearing lightning are in the house.
The ones wearing stars and carrying knives
are dividing our futures among them.

Don’t answer when they call to us in the voice of Nanny.
Don’t listen when they promise sugar.
Don’t come out until evening,
or when you hear our mother weeping to herself.

If only I could become the mirror in her purse,
I’d never come back until the end of time.

–Li-Young Lee


Is My Heart Asleep

Has my heart gone to sleep?
Have the beehives of my dreams
stopped working, the waterwheel
of the mind run dry,
scoops turning empty,
only shadow inside?

No, my heart is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
Not asleep, not dreaming—
its eyes are opened wide
watching distant signals, listening
on the rim of vast silence.

Antonio Machado
(translator unknown)

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