Michael Henry is the co-founder and Executive Director of Lighthouse Writers Workshop, an independent literary center located in downtown Denver. My poetry and nonfiction have appeared in places such as 5280 Magazine, Georgetown Review, Threepenny Review, Pleiades, Copper Nickel, and The Writer, and I’ve published two books of poetry, No Stranger Than My Own and Active Gods.
Gun is on the sand, he is walking.
His steps sigh across the soft gold ribbon,
the sun is frying his back.
He squints into the day, newly born.
Gun’s mother used to say
each grain is a planet
with nations of people on it,
so many humans with their troubles and dreams.
How do you know, Gun would ask,
Gun’s mother would say I just know.
Yet how can Gun imagine
things like love or hate
if Gun doesn’t know for sure,
if he can’t touch it,
if he can’t blow a hole in it?
Gun is sitting now. He splays
his fingers into the warm sand,
sifts out a broken shell, a mashed cigarette butt.
Grains seep under his ragged nails.
Gun’s mother used to say don’t you pay them
whiners and floozies any attention,
you’re a good boy, you’re gonna be
Gun remembers her smoky voice,
her mom-smile given up only
to him, the way she held him
when he woke from a bad dream.
He does a little morose kick,
sand splays a golden arc before
sizzling back into itself.
In the distance, a bronze boy
leaps from a rocky ledge
into the ocean.
Out to sea, two right whales
breach and crash, white spray.
Gulls circle and linger
over a busted-open garbage bag.
Gun wants someone
to come hold his hand.
When Gun finally ransacked the Garden and cut
down the Tree of Life, the angels flew off.
Clouds came and the sun was a dim, vague light
somewhere in the sky. A week later the clouds
coursed off to the east and the sun returned.
The people gave up their fear. They said, You see?
Gun has done the right thing! And they took the Tree
for themselves. They milled the wood, made beams
for houses, signposts. From the best timber
they made a massive clock, finely carved gears,
center wheel, third wheel, escape wheel, pendulum.
It ticked hollow, the wood smooth and everlasting.
Thus they made time and it kept perfect. They grew old
and died, babies were born. Many years passed.
People forgot where it came from, who made it.
But Gun remembered. Gun never forgets.