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Friday, February 24, 2023


by Dick Westheimer

In the seventy-two hours before I wrote this line,

two hundred fifty-one shot, ninety-two killed

in America. Two hundred thirteen shooters 

with two hundred thirteen guns. In seventy-two hours.

The litany of shattered bones is endless. To list 

the names and numbers shot, to catalogue 

the body parts stopped, the skin rended,

the night terrors loosed in the dreams of bystanders,

to count the wrung hands, the thoughts and prayers,

the shaken heads of the rest of us—this is

what pornography looks like: us at a distance, gazing 

at the ruined flesh, the survivors, the fallen 

as objects of a feral lust. I mistake the dead 

for something other than dead, see them as credits 

in a snuff film that I watch on repeat, on shuffle mode, 

over and over, so numb that love is no longer at stake. 

But thats all it is: love 

lost, love missing, love bought, love sold

by the wheelbarrow load, love as seen on TV, 

love that can be viewed through the sighting scope

of a gun. I look at this like the shooter does, as redemption, 

and just like the man with the gun, I am able to look away 

when I’ve had enough. But there is never enough. 

There are a trillion bullets left in the world 

and sufficient ire to strike the primer of every one,

and seventeen of them lodged in Americans since I’ve begun 

writing this poem. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty-one.

Dick Westheimer has—with his wife and writing companion Debbie—lived in rural southwest Ohio for over 40 years.  His most recent poems have appeared or are upcoming in Whale Road Review, Minyan, Gyroscope Review, The Banyan Review, Ritual Well, and Cutthroat. His debut chapbook Sword in Both HandsPoems Responding to Russia’s War on Ukraine, is published by Sheila Na Gig Books.