Two Boys in the Woods from Issue 72
find a rifle shell darkly gleaming in the leaves.
Breathy, they pocket it as though it were a curl
of a lover’s hair.
For days they take turns keeping it,
sleeping with it standing upright on the nightstand
or tucked beneath a pillow,
holding it to the light
to study the brassy casing, the sleek nose of the bullet.
Each boy dreams
of the bullets shrieking arc,
how it tears at the air
as it flies. They carry it
to school, eat their meals with it cradled
in a palm.
Finally, in the darkness if a roadside field,
one boy tapes a three-penny nail to the butt end of the shell
point against the primer, and grips the casing
with his father’s pliers.
The other boy wields a ball-peen hammer.
The strike is clean.
When the shell explodes,
the pliers split at the hinge, and the hammer’s poll shatters.
One boy’s hand opens into the darkness,
gloved in blood,
while the boy with the broken hammer
discovers he’s alive.