How Not to Win at Big Buck Hunter

Fire warning shots at the horizon.
Don’t pump to reload.
Whisper to the animals, run for your lives.
Cry when you accidentally wound one.

You are seven years old again,
watching Bambi’s mother die.
Technically she dies offscreen,

no blood, only thunderous noise
and fear. Tracks in the snow. Run
faster, Bambi, keep running.

It’s your first dead deer.
First movie. First theater.
An inoculation to death that didn’t
take, for you’re still not immune

to dying animals — backporch
baby birds or fleeing does
on arcade screens in dive bars.

You’re such a tenderheart,
the boy teases. Here, let me
show you.

He takes the long red shotgun,
demonstrates with ruthless
ease. You watch the bucks leap and

fall, leap and fall. Your hand is a clenched
fist, a prayer for their escape, any heart-stopping
blasts muffled by

shouts of jostling dart players, TV sports
announcers, the clink of Amstel Light bottles
lining the counter.

You pick up the gun, its plastic butt
digging into your collarbone when you
slide the pump action to load.

You squeeze the trigger
and shoot to miss.