Insult to Injury

By George Bilgere

I find an old air gun
and a can of ammo
down in the basement
in a cardboard moving box,
along with some other stuff,
flotsam from previous lives.
A teenager, a long-expired
me, used it to polish off
tin cans in the backyard,
and once a bright, golden
oriole, shot in mid-song,
blowing a hole through me
as it fell. Holding a pistol
is like shaking hands
with death. What the hell,
let’s see if the damn thing
still works. In the same box,
a volume of poetry, slim,
but not slim enough,
by a poet I never liked—
all smoke and mirrors—
a poet utterly, brutally
forgotten, although a blurb
on the back still calls his book
“an astonishing debut.”
I prop it against the wall,
pump, load, cock, and Blam
goes the gun as it hasn’t
in half a century. I inspect
the astonishing debut.
The pellet, as it happens,
made it farther than I ever did,
stopping on page sixty-two,
just deep enough to dimple,
not tear, a sonnet on the guy’s
divorce, how his wife ran off
with his best friend, how terrible
the betrayal, how deep his grief.
How losing her tore out his soul.
And now this.

George Bilgere’s eighth collection of poetry is Central Air (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2022). He has received grants and awards from the NEA, the Pushcart Foundation, the May Swenson Poetry Award, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Society of Midland Authors Poetry Prize. He teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland, where he lives with his wife and two exceptionally fine little boys.

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