3 Poems, by Virginia Watts

Rod and Gun Club

I am not going to write a poem
about guns used violently in
nightclubs, theatres, fast food
restaurants and please know
how horrid it is to press
these letters
S – C – H – O – O – L – S.

I am not going to write a poem
about shock and crushing despair
the inane, insane way we debate
more passionately than we
mourn dead
C – H – I – L – D – R – E – N.

I am not going to write a poem
about guns used violently
in schools against children
because it is not my place.

I am not a parent who has
had to answer that phone call.
I am not a parent who has had
to physically accept remains.
I am not a parent who has lost
my whole world in one day.

Instead, here is a short entry
about me as a child perched
at a peeling picnic table
outside in afternoon sun
on my maiden visit to a
shooting range.

I am licking a cone of
butter pecan ice cream
the only flavor offered
at the snack bar, a flavor
only adults like, spitting
nuts into a paper napkin.

The earmuffs my older brother
clamped onto my head are
enormous. They have slid down
to form an ugly necklace.
I am jumping like mad
in my seat. Every gunshot
shocks me. Gunshots are
much louder than you expect.

I want to enjoy the vanilla
ice cream between the gross nuts.
I try repositioning the muffs
over my ears but they fall back
down. I try watching fingers
pulling triggers so I can stop
being so terrified. I focus
on my brother who is kind and
good but he and his fellow
shooters have stepped inside
the same smokey mirror
reflecting robots loading
cocking, lifting, steadying
squinting, aiming, firing.

I have seen shooting before
in technicolor Westerns
with characters named Haas
or Wyatt who are mostly
silly and good at whistling
but this shooting is not that.

Head ringing, I trail behind
my brother, not to the paddock
to untie his horse as I wish
but to his dented-up Chevy
parked in a cinder lot of butts
and Pabst Blue Ribbon caps
my hands sticky, a wailing
reverberating inside my ears.


The young mothers
are tired,
they exchange
children’s ages
potty training tips
good nursery schools
babysitter contacts
on their iPhones.
I’d give anything
for a full night of sleep.
I don’t tell her
how pointless
eight hours of sleep
feels at sixty,
that someday
she will ignore
house repairs,
tinkling toilet
drippy faucet
loose gutter
just to hear
when she awakens
in stone quiet

One young mother
is taking the class
while her son
is at daycare
to lose
her baby fat.
I don’t tell her
how useless
the fat
I carry around
on my hips
feels with no one
to prop there,
how there is
no one
to pick up
and drive home,
that I don’t make
funny faces
in my rear view

One young mother
misses a clean house
and breakfast out,
I don’t tell her
how much I try
to enjoy hot
unforgotten coffee,
how last evening
I was down
on my hands and knees
a spotless kitchen floor
where my daughter
lost a lavender
Polly Pocket high heel,
Christmas Day 2002,
that I didn’t
go outside
to catch lightning bugs.


my grandmother spent her lifetime
in a cabin tucked into Elk Mountain
born and raised there
birthed and raised a family there
heard patterns in falling rain
wandered with stars as her company
cherished the phases of the moon
sensed the presence of wild animals
stayed stone still until they passed.

Springs she planted a field of pansies
I see in my dreams. Summers she
stuffed her cabin with bluebells and lilies.
Autumns we hiked to the top of Elk Mountain
picnicked with a gem-colored surround.
Winters we laughed as wind howled loud
in the chimney pretending to be a ghost.

When a snake sunk her fangs into me
Ruth dried my tears and my blood
applied ointment, bandaged my calf
brewed peppermint tea, served warm
molasses cake with whipped cream
on a pretty pink pottery plate. Told me
I’d scared that snake half to death
when I dove into a part of Elk Creek
the snake called home. Just because
a snake bite hurts like the dickens
doesn’t mean the snake wanted it to.

Virginia Watts is the author of poetry and stories found in Epiphany, CRAFT, The

Florida Review, Reed Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Permafrost Magazine, and Broadkill Review

among others. Her poetry chapbooks are available from Moonstone Press. She has been

nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her short story collection Echoes

from The Hocker House can be preordered from The Devil’s Party Press. Visit her at