Gun ownership is on my mind. This week, following the dramatic progression of the Marjory Stoneham students Never Again marches “to make change against and stop gun violence,” I shared The Other 98% ‘s picture of a Republican hunter’s March 24th poster on Facebook with the comment: “A man with perspective and conscience.”
I was grateful a local friend had posted the picture and wanted to pass it on for others to see. It felt like a breakthrough, perhaps an opening of meaningful dialogue.
As a therapist, I am always curious about what particular image or piece of information draws us in and stirs meaningful links. On the surface, I was drawn to a hopeful feeling by this man’s poster.
60—YEARS A HUNTER
50—YEARS A REPUBLICAN
I NEVER SHOT 17 DEER AT ONCE
BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS
Only when I began to write this blog did I realize my long history with hunters and gun violence.
I first encountered the violence a gun could render on the front stoop of my home on Route One in Portland, Maine. My parent, especially my mom, was protective. It would never have occurred to her to shield me from sitting on the front stairs. Every fall, I watched a parade of deer strapped to station wagon rooftops as hunters drove homeward from the Maine woods. I had no words, just the raw instinct of a child’s first sight of a bullet wound circled in blood on a gentle “Bambi’s” chest. Years later, this poem emerged.
Along Route One, Portland Maine, 1939
Five years old, on the front steps, as
she watched the parade of cars, she saw
a gentle “Bambi,” her legs splayed & roped,
riding atop a station wagon.
Curious about a deer asleep on a car,
it was when she saw the next, its head slack,
its body dripping dried blood, that
she winced as though that shot
had gone straight through herself.
She wanted to run
but her eyes could not turn
from that endless caravan of prey.
Years later, she would learn of other carnages.
Already, she knew to cry.
Only once, on a trip to Alaska, to visit a friend and colleague, have I been party to men shooting guns at close range. Our host, a liberal and Alaskan enthusiast invited us to join a friend’s dinner party to try “bear” steaks. Because I had cut back from eating meat, I was hesitant but drawn to what was described as an “Alaskan adventure.” When the brown-crusted steaks were served, I took one taste and pushed my plate away. It was far too tough and gamey.
But the highlight, for the four men, was the opportunity to target practice in the backyard with a pistol and live bullets. I watched from the window, repelled and repulsed by the sight. Even for “fun,” watching through a window at a safe distance, the shots rang straight through me.
I’m grateful to the committed teens who have lived their lives under the threat of school shooting violence and who continue to stand firm in their #Never Again resolve.
I like the powerful contrast of two voices in this piece: the voice of an older man (imagined from his black lettered sign), and the voice of a little girl (captured by the writer who tells her story as a poem). Both voices seem to tell of awakenings–y calling up similar, unsettling images of hunted (peaceful) deer.
Thank you, Rosemary for your attention to the frame of this piece. Setting pen to paper triggered a memory of the poem that I wrote long ago. No wonder I seized upon the connection to the marching hunter.
While reading your words, I saw those bloodied animals and the young child being introduced
to guns and blood and tears and the wider world we live in.
Thanks, Sheila. As you well know, the unconscious lays in wait for just the right trigger. I am gratitude to have remembered the poem and to have found it in my poetry file.