Nicole Tallman Miami (Elisa Albo)
Poem for the Soft Boys
Where I come from, there’s a season for guns, as if rifles should be celebrated like Christmas.
There’s a smell. I’d like to call it November, but it’s a special blend of blood, rust, estrus, and a winter so cold it freezes the hair inside my nose.
There’s a ritual. It’s men dressed in camouflage and hunter orange. It’s the law. And they stay out late on the 40 and chug 40s, perch up in trees or shelter in blinds, chew tobacco and build big fires.
Where I come from, it’s also about the merchandise. The “Nice Rack” shirts and mounted deer heads on the wall. Not surprisingly, racks are one reason men prize the buck more than the doe.
There’s a sound out my window where I come from. It’s earsplitting gunfire and the fight between my uncle and cousin who never speak again.
There’s a name for the soft boys where I come from, the ones who don’t drive big trucks and don’t refer to women as broads you just load up and throw in the back.
Where I come from, hunting is a blood sport. And it breeds blood-thirsty boys who think it’s ok to say: Do what I say or I’ll shoot you.
There’s also a mascot: a dead deer, purple gray tongue out, gutted and hanging from the rafters of the garage. The same purple gray of the deer liver my dad left on the counter for my mom to cook.
She said it reminded her of afterbirth and made her gag.
(Note: This poem was written in response to the question “Where are you from?”—a question people still ask me in Miami, even though I’ve been living in South Florida for 18 years. The answer is Michigan. This poem was first published in trampset under the title “Rifle Season,” and was republished under the title “Poem for the Soft Boys” in my second book, Poems for the People.