“Dillinger is Dead” by Paul Hlava

Paul Hlava


Each gas mask is tested at the end
of the assembly line. I stand in a glass chamber
where pale gas erases the laboratory.
A man taps on the door. A thumbs-up means
I am not unconscious. Each object
is given a name, stamped in rubber on
the conveyor belt: goggles, circular filter,
pin to pull from the mouthpiece’s hose
and let the outside in. I leave the warehouse.
I travel 45 mph, stop twice at red lights,
and park in a lot behind the yellow arm
of a toll-booth. Rent is due.
Knives and forks are in the kitchen drawers.
Art is hanging on the wall. The TV flashes
a battleship and broken champagne bottle,
a cartoon bear who advertises toilet paper.
When a cookbook falls from the closet,
I discover the old pistol. I dice chives,
slice a taut bulb of garlic, dismantle the gun.
I heat a pan, drop into it a deep red cut of beef,
brush the rusty trigger with a sponge.
I add bullion to boiling water, add fat and bone,
the diced vegetables. The battleship advances
on TV and a woman is dancing in her underwear.
I pick at the discolored firing pin and rub it
with olive oil. I serve myself
a thick cut of meat. I put the gun parts
in a bowl, and sit down to eat.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011

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