by Dawn Corrigan

each of us wears a .45
and each of us is supposed
to shoot the other
if the other behaves strangely
we wait for a long time
until I feel itchy all over
is my gun loaded
I want to check
but I worry he’ll think
that’s strange

we haven’t been given
a list of strange
behaviors to look for
so I continue to wait
I begin to wonder
if I’ve gotten mixed up
maybe we’re not supposed
to move at all
maybe we’re supposed
to hold ourselves
perfectly still
like the models in an art class
until we truly believe
we’re made of marble
or oil paint

I’ve never shot a gun
never even held one until now
I grew up in the wild
on a preserve of land
one square mile in area
a white lion named
Kimba lived there
and many other animals
the animals didn’t
eat each other
none of us ate much at all

the preserve was ruled over
by two women
with pleasant round faces
who wore their hair
in ponytails
and strummed guitars

how did I come
to be holding a gun
should I try
to creep away
should I throw myself
into his arms
we aren’t supposed
to do anything strange
we’re supposed
to make ourselves
into statues

we’re waiting
and waiting for news
who has won
the Nobel prize
can one win at solitaire
without cheating
will skirts be short
or long next fall
where does love go
when it goes
but no news comes

SOURCE: “The Assignment” previously appeared in prose form at Everyday Genius and The Raging Face.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Dawn Corrigan first encountered the work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the strange suburban shores of her childhood, where she’d sneak into the poetry pages of the reader even though they weren’t assigned in class.

IMAGE: “Triple Elvis,” silkscreen on canvas, by Andy Warhol (1964).

Dawn Corrigan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dawn Corrigan has published poetry and prose in a number of print and online journals, with work forthcoming from The Bookends Review, Lighten Up Online, Rind Literary Magazine, Jersey Devil Press, The Wallace Stevens Journal, The Screaming Sheep, and Brain of Forgetting. Her debut novel, an environmental mystery called Mitigating Circumstances, was published by Five Star/Cengage in January 2014. She lives in Gulf Breeze, Florida. She, too, is waiting for the end of the anxiety plague. Find her online at dawncorrigan.com.