Dad’s got a gun in his drawer, he’s got a dirty book.

And a jumpknife, too.

That drawer’s not taller than me anymore.


Dad’s got a gun in his drawer, he’s got a dirty book.

And a jumpknife, too.


Sometimes when I come home ahead of the others

I go back & get out the gun & sit on the bed.

The drawer’s quiet when it opens.

Get the gun sometimes & sit on the bed.

Sometimes get the book.


The gun’s got a leather holster. Smooth,

worn smoother. Darker where a man’s hand goes.

But it’s got no bullets. How heavy it is, how good

it feels in my hand.


Dad’s got a gun in his drawer: I heard him call it

Luger. But he won’t talk about it,

won’t tell us how he got it.


Dad’s got a dirty book. That drawer’s not

taller than me anymore. What’s a book doing

in a drawer? Sometimes I get home early—

before the others. Get the book, sit on the bed,

sun coming in.


The book’s beside the gun. It’s a stupid book, a stupid

story, lots of pages folded back. He’s got a jumpknife, too.

It’s about a man unbuttoning a woman’s shirt.

He runs his hand across her tits, it says,


and she rises to meet him with her lips. He pulls off

some of her clothes and throws them on the floor. Take me,

she says. What does she mean?

Sometimes I get home early, before the others.

Sometimes I go for the gun, sometimes the book, sometimes


the knife, but last week more for the book

than the gun or knife. I like the way no matter what day

I come in it tells the story again.


The gun, the book, the jumpknife—

springblade, sharp. He got it in the paratroopers, won’t talk about it.

Got it in the 101st. All he said was You need a quick knife

when you hit the ground. All he said about the knife.


Sometimes I get home before the others & get the knife

& sit in the sun on the bed & flick it. Close it. Flick it.

Close it. Flick it. I love its silver button. First

it’s nothing, then it’s a knife.


Sometimes I spread them all out, there in the sun:

the book, the knife, the gun, on the big bed.

Mostly I wish the gun had bullets.


From Swimmer Climbing onto Shore, Sixteen Rivers Press (San Francisco), 2005


Gerald Fleming is the author of The Choreographer (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2013), Night of Pure Breathing (Hanging Loose Press, 2011), and Swimmer Climbing onto Shore (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2005). He lives in California.