Michael J. Henry

Gun and Blue


Gun is painting his bedroom walls.
Blue is the color but not quite.

The paintcan label reads cornflower
and though Gun has never seen

an actual bloom, he believes in the word.
Gun is working hard to trust what he hears and sees,

speak and spell. He wants to feel good
about coining of phrase, knowing the known.

Gun and us fellas, us boys, we are all knowers,
are big talkers too,

always lecturing. We tend to shun conversation.
A one-way street, shut your hole and listen.


After a violent rainstorm, Gun gathers broken
branches in his weedy back yard. With a dull saw

he trims cracked tree limbs, leaves the big stumps
by the curb. To him they look like cigar butts.

When a truck with an enormous jointed arm
takes it all away Gun feels sad,

lies down on his stained mattress,
his body far from all other bodies.

Gun whispers a word: loneliness.
We are wise to it.

Like we always say:
in words we trust.


Gun sleeps. He dreams. In them, no one speaks.
Restless, he shifts, makes gentle waves

of the sheets, but he does not wake
for he is floating in the blue,

and there are no decent words
to describe the vivid hue of the ocean.

Gun Has Power of Mind

Gun thought of a hockey game—
the ice rink melted and
became a tsunami.

Gun thought of a septic system—
it softened into a giant snake that burst from the earth
and ate

all the neighborhood animals,
cats, dogs, hamsters, two

Gun thought of going to medical school—
it choked his throat, having to learn the names of all those bones
and germs.

Gun thought of UPS trucks—
they all drove ramshackle into the ocean,
a million cardboard packages bobbing on salty waves.

Gun thought of money—
his eyes melted and his fingers were
crumpled newspaper pages.

Gun thought about the rainclouds in the sky—
they turned to rock and fell to earth,
smashing everything to smithereens.

Gun thought of global warming—
fat men in suits laughed themselves purple, slurping scotch
and blood on the rocks.

Gun worried about the polar ice caps—
a long icicle swelled out of his ear,
dripping clear.

Gun saw all these teens running from the high school.
He waved Hi but they didn’t seem to appreciate
the kind gesture.

Gun pondered his naked form in the mirror,
he curled up fetal on his creaky bed
and wept.

Gun Goes to See a Shrink

They sit, inert.
They don’t say anything.
Gun, it is apparent, is
well defended.

The shrink says,
Well, let’s start by you
telling me
about your day.

Gun says
I got up
used the john
went for
a walk, went off
a couple of times,
then ended up
back in the closet
in the old tin box
high on the shelf
with the Penthouses
and the paperdry
baggie of dope,
like I’m some kind
of contraband.

And how did you feel
about that?

People died
along the way
but so what?
It’s not my fault.

What makes you
say that?

Say what? All of it?

The last part.

Because I didn’t do it.
Haven’t you heard?
Gun don’t kill
people, people
kill people.

Long pause.
Shrink scribbles
some notes.
He makes a cage
of his fingers,
tip to tip.
He is thinking real deep.
The moment hangs there
in the empty space
between them,
like something
might actually happen.

The shrink sucks in a deep breath.
Well, I’m sorry to say our time
is up.

Just what I was thinking, Gun says.

Michael Henry is co-founder and Executive Director of Lighthouse Writers Workshop, the largest independent literary arts center in the Rocky Mountain west. He is the author of three books of poetry and has received fellowships from the Colorado Council on the Arts and PlatteForum, and a Livingston Fellowship from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation.

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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.