Joan Colby

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Artwork by Gene McCormick

Gun Sestina

Grandfather was 40 when a gun
Resolved his life. A land dispute. He shot
The rancher whose son then killed
Him. All for what. Grandfather left six children
And a wife in the Uinta mountains.
They had to go on with their lives.

It was just part of life.
Father was nine when his first gun
Was presented. Far from those mountains
Of his birth. Excited, he shot
A bird, then like any child
Was dismayed to find that it was killed.

He never again killed
Anything. Said that life
Was sacred as fatherless children.
When he graduated, his mother gave him those guns:
Dueling pistols, a pocket watch bloodshot.
All he had of his father’s lost mountains.

In the house at the foot of the mountains,
My cousins and I killed
Time. Our eyes shot
With risk. Risking our lives
Maybe as we stared at Papa’s gun
Hidden in a cigar box. We were children.

There are no children
Now at this flatland farm. No mountains
But we have a gun.
The Browning unused since you gave up killing
Pheasants or ducks. Since their lives
Like ours, absolved of shooting

Not even the raucous New Year’s shooting
Of our neighbors. Think how children
Every day risk their lives
Walking in the shadow of citied mountains
Or simply being anywhere that killing
Can happen. Anywhere there are guns.

Guns. Mountains
Of ammunition. Children’s lives.
Children being killed. This endless shooting.


Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner.Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). She is the editor of Illinois Racing News and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 10 books including The Lonely Hearts Killers, The Atrocity Book and her newest book from Future Cycle Press—“Dead Horses.” FutureCycle will also publish “Selected Poems” in 2013..Kayla Sargeson has studied with the poets Jan Beatty, Tony Trigilio, and D. A. Powell. Her chapbook Mini Love Gun was recently published by Main Street Rag. Her poems appear or are forthcoming from 5 AM, Columbia Poetry Review, and Chiron Review.