Weapon Cleaning

First, disassemble
into the major groups:
upper, lower, bolt carrier.

Handle each piece like a young boy
unpacking a box of seashells, striped rocks, pine cones;
marvel at how something this metal
could be so breakable.
Think about the body.

Wipe off excess carbon and oil
before applying cleaning agents;
with a one-inch paintbrush,
carefully dust optics, delta ring, front sight.

A kind of archaeology;
the exterior components, when stripped
from the barrel, are delicate
as the dinosaur bones
the boy imagines
from a collection of twigs.

Soak the bolt and its sub parts.
While that’s soaking, run
dry patches through the bore.

The parts lie there,
leaving black stains
on white cloth, the bullet’s
messy signature. The boy’s
fingers are sticky with sap.

Flush the gas tube and blow it out
with compressed air.

He blows sand off a seashell;
the valve catches the air and emits
a low, sorrowful sound,
similar to the whistle of lead.

If the Fire Control Group is excessively dirty,
flush with solvent and blow dry.
Apply lubrication to the hammer, trigger,
and disconnector.

Think about the soul,
a puff of wind
shot from the mouth,
travelling faster
than 5.56 NATO.
Think about the boy inhaling
the sea and the forest.

Reassemble and store the weapon.
Think about the box and what it contained.
Remember who you are
and forgive yourself.

Author: Charlie Bondhus

Charlie Bondhus’s second poetry book, All the Heat We Could Carry, won the 2013 Main Street Rag Award and the 2014 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. His first book, How the Boy Might See It was reissued in fall 2015 in a revised, expanded edition from Jane’s Boy Press. His work appears in numerous journals, including Poetry, The Bellevue Literary Review, The Missouri Review, Copper Nickel, The Gay & Lesbian Review, The Alabama Literary Review, and Midwest Quarterly. He is assistant professor of English at Raritan Valley Community College (NJ) and is the poetry editor at The Good Men Project (goodmenproject.com).

3 thoughts on “Weapon Cleaning”

  1. Thanks, Stephen. I’m fond of Reed’s poem so it’s nice to be compared favorably.

    There’s a real pleasure, I find, in manipulating language that doesn’t seem “poetic” at first blush but, when rearranged and infused with the personal, becomes somehow incantatory, haunting. From there, the poem pretty much writes itself.

  2. “Remember who you are and forgive yourself.” Easier to forgive yourself if you don’t face who you are.

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