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Poetry

Karla Van Vliet

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photo by Sadie Newman

Karla Van Vliet is the author of two collections of poems, From the Book of Remembrance (Shanti Arts, 2015), andThe River From My Mouth (Shanti Arts, 2016) and a poem length chapbook, Fragments: From the Lost Book of the Bird Spirit(Folded Word, 2018.) She is an Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry Prize finalist, and a two-time Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Her poems have appeared in Acumen,Poet Lore, The Tishman ReviewGreen Mountains Review, Crannog Magazine and others. Karla is a co-founder and editor of deLuge Journal. She is an Integrative Dreamwork analyst, artist and administrator of the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf, Middlebury College. Karla lives in Vermont.  www.vanvlietarts.com

If the Target at the Shooting Range Were a Man with a Gun Aimed at Me

All has gone still. In my ears I hear my blood pulse the sound of a heron’s wings as she lifts from the river’s edge, flap and rise, flap and rise, long sure strikes against gravity. On the wall behind him the late afternoon light falls like water across the blue and ripples, and in the moment that is not the moment, I am years back sitting on the dock at my grandparent’s lake-house, mesmerized by the shallow’s dappled surface and the sunfish guarding her pebbled nest of eggs, the hot sun on my skin turned auburn. But in his hand, which is reaching toward me as if it were offering a bouquet of daffodils or tulips, there is the dull black barrel of a semiautomatic pistol. Adrenaline swells like a voice lifting into the church’s sanctuary, singing, hallelujah, hallelujah, and breaks over me in fear’s blush. Flap and rise, flap and rise. In my own hand sits the hefty weight of a Glock and I look at it as if it is a stranger, as if its weight was a curiosity in my hand and not what I aim to kill him with. From far off, his hands complete the motion of his intention, having come together in what appears to be a gesture of prayer, grasping fingers intertwined, his index has gently squeezed the trigger, and I hear the pop pop tumble like thunder toward me. Like the memory I replay, how I left my body and stood by the door, how I watched that man ravish me in his strangled perversion. If I had held this gun in my hand that day… can I ask this question? …would I have used it against him? And if I had would I not be like him? Would I not have to leave my body, then too, to kill what was in him, kill to save whatwould no longer live in me?
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