By Gabriela Valencia
Your old motorcycle glinted like a fleck of mica in the sun from where
I toed a discarded shell in dry dirt. You said we could carve a hole in it;
string it like a jewel around my neck. If I wanted. But I wanted instead to shoot.
So you brought me the smallest rifle of your dad’s dozen from inside,
where Rainer and Zola jingled behind you curious. And two aluminum cans
we set on flowerpots at the foot of the shallow ditch. I watched you feed
.22 cartridges into the magazine, explaining—open action, safety on, aimed
away. Before you reversed the orders and shot the first can dead-on.
I lifted my dress, set a knee to gravel, scoped over the garden cart
the metal heart, and shot. Ping, thrill. —That was that. Back inside, Rainer
pursued, sniffing the empty barrel as you moved to lock it up. I remembered
you’d once said, watching him lick my face, how you’d realized just how big
he was. His teeth and broad neck, capable of shaking animals to death.
We put the planters back in the shed. We let the dogs back out into the yard.
You pointed out flocks of geese, snow geese, and sandhill cranes migrating
over the alfalfa field. More than beautiful. Said, No one can hunt them. At least
not here. Pointed out their shadows. Like smoke descending onto the trees.
Gabriela Valencia is a nonfiction writer and poet. She is the co-author of neuroscience research in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research; and Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience. Her poetry and essays have been published or are forthcoming in Great Lakes Review, Degenerate Art Literary Journal, Runestone, The Showbear Family Circus, Bird’s Thumb, and elsewhere. She received her Bachelor’s in Chemistry and English from Loyola University Chicago in 2018, and she received her MFA in Poetry from Boston University in 2022, where she served as Teaching Fellow and was a recipient of the Robert Pinsky Global Travel Fellowship. Find more on her website: https://gabrielavalencia.net/ and Instagram: @nervousshakedown