Winter 2011 • Vol. XXXIII No. 1 PoetryJanuary 1, 2011 |

In the Gallery of American Violence

the musket sulks in the corner. Not only is it exhausted, it feels utterly humiliated. A pack of wild school kids huddles around the display case, bored, terribly skeptical that this device—with its smoothbore barrel and cherrywood stock—could have ever punched a hole in a bewildered soldier. They scribble a few notes then dash off to some flashier exhibit: an early landmine perhaps, or a car window used in a modern drive-by. How lonely the musket feels, forgotten in its glass prison, dust on its muzzle, dust in its mouth. Send me back to the end of the eighteenth century, it thinks. There, it stalked the battlefields, a god without mercy. Blood on the blades of grass, blood on its bayonet, a hungry tooth. A celebration thunder-stomping its way through the smoke. Cannon songs. Banners waving in the dark. There were fewer stars, it thinks, on the flag back then, but more in the sky. 

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Matthew Olzmann is the author of two poetry collections: Mezzanines and Contradictions in the Design (both from Alice James Books). He teaches at Dartmouth College and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

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