Paul Crenshaw

Brian Wouldn’t Stay Dead

Brian wouldn’t stay dead,
days when we gathered together,
fingers forming triggers,
claws curled into pistols,
running through the high weeds
in the woods behind our houses,
aiming our hand-guns at one another and
announcing the imminently deceased.
When you got hit you had to quit shooting
and sit quiet for maybe a minute,
but Brian wouldn’t stay dead and
Dee wouldn’t lie down in the dirt.
Steve said he had a shield.
Jay could jump over bullets.
None of us knew yet
the awfulness we would see as adults,
nor the names of towns in Texas
and Connecticut and Colorado
that we would later contemplate,
so we just went on then,
the claims of woundings and wingings
whizzing around us,
someone always saying they had
dodged the bullet, as if death
were a thing that could be side-stepped,
as if we didn’t have to get down in the dirt,
as if, after our time was up,
we could continue.

Paul Crenshaw’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, anthologies by W.W. Norton and Houghton Mifflin, Oxford American, Glimmer Train, Ecotone, North American Review, and Brevity, among others.

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