All Safeties Off | Pittsburgh City Paper

All Safeties Off

It was Christmas Day in our backyard
when I first shot my dad’s hunting rifle —
felt it kick back into my shoulder as he looked on, 
keeping distance 
as shells went flying.
I fingered the trigger, 
breathed the weight of it all
burning hot metal 
swallowing painted targets 
my shaky hands steadying & aiming —
all safeties off.

And I thought, here I am 
deep in December — sweating 
there was something
within the chamber 
I couldn’t point to
barreling through me just the same
& the weapon clicks 
white knuckle grip 
I need to reload, but what’s the point 
if all my ghosts wear bulletproof vests
& don’t understand the word no 
or stop 
& my dad yells, Bull’s eye! 

& I drop
the gun.

- Kara Knickerbocker

Kara Knickerbocker is an avid runner, traveler and writer residing in Pittsburgh, where she works at Carnegie Mellon University. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in print and online publications including Scrawl, ConstructionPittsburgh Poetry Review, Longridge Review and The Blue Route, among othersShe writes with the Madwomen in the Attic poetry workshops at Carlow University. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Saturday morning on WESA 90.5 FM.