The Trigger and the Down
First, autumn leaves whispered rust. The woods began to speak to me when I stopped hearing her. The grand shadows here stay jagged. The gleam of owl eyes watch, while other predators whisper come.
My father tells me that the woods spoke to her, too. I am thirteen when we share my first stinky cigarette. We clean my mother’s old revolver together. The sun in the woods is another kind-hazy aventurine, dripping from the shade.
My father tells me to lock all of the doors when he goes hunting. “Be still and read.”
“Yes, father. I will.”
I am a liar. He can tell.
“Just like your mother,” he says.
I close the heavy, plaid curtains in the living room. They scratch their metal screams across the rod. I hear his trashy truck shake its metal mess into a rumble down the steep hill, and I find my mother’s gun. It sleeps underneath her rose-embroidered handkerchiefs in her bedside drawer.
I lay it on the cool, white, kitchen countertop, and it reflects its distorted metal body in the toaster. I make warm bread with too much butter.
In the middle room, once my nursery, my mother’s memories are entombed in the dark, dusty closet. I find the zipped-up gown that once held her body, white-white satin. I put on her wedding dress. I’ll never get married. Hell, I can’t get out of these woods.
The full train of the dress licks the porch wood. I hear the earth call up from the blind-black roots. I aim and shoot. The doves fall one by one from their intricate, warm nests. They chirp through blustering feathers before they thud to the ground.
I make my way into the layered woods. In my mother’s train of fabric bones, I collect the warm eggs, small eggs. I carry them in the gather of my gown. I return to hide my winnings in the house.
I snap out again through the screen door, satin bunched in my fist at my thigh. I scoop up the limp doves by their rough feet, their dreamy flight gone heavy, and splay them on the kitchen table. Their wings unfold, heavenly. I pluck their feathers one by one. I haven’t slept since my mother died, every day sleepless, one by one. I stuff her starched pillowcases full of soft feathers and lay down– down like the woods, and dream a roar of guns. I dream of her trigger and her down.
Amanda Chiado’s poem “Armor” is part of the 2019 Visible Poetry Project, animated by Marc Burnett. She is the author of the chapbook Vitiligod: The Ascension of Michael Jackson (Dancing Girl Press, 2016). Her poetry and short fiction appears or is forthcoming in Entropy, Cheap Pop, Paper Darts, Best New Poets, Witness, Cimarron Review, Fence, and It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip Hop, among others. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart & Best of the Net. She is the Director of Arts Education at the San Benito County Arts Council, is an active California Poet in the Schools, and edits for Jersey Devil Press.
A Song for Amanda