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I didn't know what they wanted. Six or seven and in the care of two teenage cousins drunk on beer who dragged me through dark woods behind their house. I thought I saw black wings swoop down to lift me away but no one came and I followed them into a clearing where they finished their beer and loaded the rifle. In the snow I was cold. I watched the sky for wings but saw only the night's black dome and a pyramid of cans they'd made and blasted in turns with the rifle so it sounded like someone's bones being broken, then they looked at me. They put a can in my hand extended as far from my body as all my strength allowed.... For a long time afterwards I felt out of sync. In school I would fall into tunnels of snow in my brain towards some center. I would watch the sky for wings until I heard my name called from a great distance and felt the teacher shake my shoulders. That night with my cousins drunkenly loading their rifle, I learned that fear had a shape and a taste in your mouth not like metal but more human and wrong. I wanted to drop my arms and run away but they were drunk and they stumbled in the frozen snow, the rifle tangled between them so I was afraid to move until the first shot caught the can in my hand on its rim so it vibrated through my fingers, shook my brain and exploded into the moonlit snow. They laughed and slapped my back and just as thoughtlessly as they had descended they rose into the trees again towards the warm house and its emerald jungle of our lives.
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Author:Weigl, Bruce
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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