ROB ARNOLD Mercury 1984

The smell the burn the clash
the muzzle flash sear and kick
clay birdies arcing overhead
the twelve-gauge twenty-gauge
thirty-thirty twenty-two
the SKS semiautomatic
we took to the shooting range
we took out to the woods
to the river the slow crawl of mud
aiming at frogs at squirrels
at each other as a joke
the black powder flintlock
bullets we forged in the garage
hot lead we fluxed with the wax
we poured in the molds
we quenched in the pail
by the trash pile’s muck
and reek its maggoty
froth foul detritus
the beer can ashtrays
mildewed coffee mugs
the milk jug of mercury
our father kept for work
we poured it out
in the driveway watched
it rivulet particulate
like molten fire like a sea
of stars a mirror for the dead
staring back the strange
alchemy riparian spark you
showed to me big brother you
dipped your fingers in you
scattered the droplets
letting them reassemble
a kind of perfection
we inhaled we took deeply
into our bodies and somehow
did not kill ourselves not yet
whatever mistakes we made
whatever damages done


Rob Arnold’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Hyphen, Gettysburg Review, Ocean State Review, and Yes Poetry, among others. He cofounded the online journal Memorious, and coedits Grid Books. He lives in Seattle, WA, where he curates events for Hugo House.