“Open Carry” by Rebecca Starks

Rebecca Starks


What if each of their Lives had Stood,
a folded Umbrella, until that Day—

What if the National Umbrella Association
lobbied to change luck’s laws
and we could open umbrellas in the house,
lay them on beds and give them as gifts—
and even on sunny days, carry them open
in night clubs and churches,
movie theaters and elementary schools,
offices and outdoor concerts—a real cause,
so we no longer had to leave them shut up
in closets or hanging on walls
or leaning against porch railings
or stashed in the drawers of bedside tables
in hotels—so that everyone could be prepared,
everyone be saved, the black honeycomb
of mourning stand its ground
shoulder to shoulder against the cloud’s
dark motive …
It rains four inches a year in Las Vegas.
What if this isn’t the time to talk about umbrellas?

I have one in my bag right now,
a Robinson, a Gamp, a spring-loaded automatic,
at a touch it will bloom
to receive the syncopated sound of rain
dancing, hopping on the taut roof
the way a gun can sound like firecrackers from the sky.
It’s true there are still puddles and spray,
there is the lower half of you, the arm aches,
the skin blows inside out like a skirt in the wind.
See the man trying to keep a woman dry,
covering suede and silk and hair
with the shield of his body.
What if umbrellas don’t keep you dry,
people keep you dry, and are broken trying.

from Poets Respond
2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor Winner


Rebecca Starks: “The impulse for the poem came from something Mike Spies said on NPR this week, during an interview prompted by the Las Vegas shooting: ‘At the core of [the NRA’s] agenda is to normalize gun carrying in as many places as possible until it just becomes as natural of a thing … as any other accessory that people carry around.’ Other elements of the poem come from the news coverage of the shooting, in particular the portraits of those killed, including several men who died while shielding others.” (website)

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