Craig Cotter

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Shooting with Dad and Gramp

We'd bring the rifles
to a range each spring
to sight.

First time
I was 6.


Two spider-silk cross-hairs
in each scope.

You’d both explain

Never got it.

Like I never got Coach Nemerov's signals
from third base.


I could shoot as much as I wanted
as long as I’d reload.

In our Michigan basement
rows of empty shells in wood holders.

Knock out the spent primer,
file burrs inside and out,

check each case for fatigue.

Add new primer.
Fill shells with powder

then crimp in bullets.

One box
for target rounds,

one for hunting.


As I liked the paper boy
I knew this wasn't going to go down well

in our assembly-line neighborhood.
Rumor was

you'd be sent to the big state hospital
in Pontiac

for shock treatments.


I realized

most men at the outdoor range
were afraid of our .44.

The summer I was 10 in ‘71
I learned to shoot it.

No one could call me a fag then!

I'd blaze 80 rounds,
fire coming out of the barrel,
recoil over my head.

Keep targets
with inked scores
in my bedroom.

And I could hit a baseball hard

400 feet to right-center.


My straight shrink
Dr. Winston Gooden

told me years later
gay men

do all the things
I thought only straight guys did well.


Now archetypal twink is my Grail.
I still shoot the .44

at the Angeles Shooting Range.
Have had the rifles greased for storage.

My timing

at 49
is shot

for baseball.

And I write poems!
I'm gay as The Fourth of July!

and traffic has lightened
at the intersection

of Sunset and PCH.


Dear Jerry,

In the photo you sent
when we were 10

I don’t remember your cat
but remember my brown pants
I’d later see on my cousin Larry.

He escaped to The Netherlands.
I escaped to Los Angeles.
Mark to Zurich.
Rose to Rancho Palos Verdes
(her husband can play Norwegian Wood on a Hammond organ).

What was Rimbaud's favorite food in Africa?
Did he like fucking his African wife
more than Verlaine?
Did he ever fuck anyone?

I've seen photos of Rimbaud.
What was his height and weight?
Did he leave kids behind in Africa?


Craig Cotter was born in 1960 in New York and has lived in California since 1986.  His poems have appeared in California Quarterly, Chiron Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, The Gay & Lesbian Review, Great Lakes Review, Hawai’i Review, & Tampa Review. His fourth book of poems, After Lunch with Frank O’Hara, is currently available on Amazon.