Gunman in Context
 

A gunman entered the Ditto, a bar filled with typewriters.
He robbed the register.  I typed “ohmanagunohgodagunman”
and I liked the feel of it on my fingers,
the sense of power, like pulling a trigger. 


If I saw him, say, on a city bus, sans gun,
he'd have seemed like just another man,
and we'd have talked loaded decks, loaded questions,
all the loads he carries alone.  We'd have talked
broken promises and glasses, all the broken-ness
that provides ammunition for his anger. 


The gun in his hand made him a gunman.
Then again, he could have held it anywhere.
Gun in his teeth?   Gunman. 


Gun concealed like a wallet in his pants?  Gunman. 
Sitting in church, praying, gun immured in the sanctum
of his boots, he would have been a gunman,
and this is the part we fail to understand. 
We understand a gunman at a bank or at 7-11,
but what about a lone gunman, pursuing
a gunwoman through the personals? 
And maybe this is the problem: we don't think
of the gunman until he has the gun in his hand.


Imagine a gunman in the second person: “you are a gunman,”
or in the subjunctive: “if he were a gunman,”
or in the imperative: “put down your gun, man.” 
The gunman at the Ditto got shot,
a dead man landing, unhanding his gun.

 Tom C. Hunley


Morsels, Remorse, Morte

 It's Easter Sunday and we're watching “Jesus Christ Superstar,”
and there's a woman on my couch; she's 29 and beautiful,
but nostalgic about being 19 and irresistible.  She's eating
cheesecake and her face is beatific like the face
of the resurrected Jesus when he appears to Mary Magdelene,
who, in the movie, is both beautiful and irresistible,
with a sonorous voice that could make statues of angels

weep blood, and the woman on my couch says
“I wish I could stay eternally in the state
of eating this cheesecake,” while Mary Magdelene sings
“Everything's all right, yes, everything's fine,” but then
the woman on my couch calculates the damage:  550 calories
and 32 grams of fat = 300 stomach crunches
and an hour on the treadmill, and her cheesecake-induced

ecstatic glow turns at once to the look Judas gets
later in the evening, right before he tosses away
his ill-gotten silver, sings, and hangs himself,
though the rope fits loosely, and if I didn't know
how the story ends, I'd wonder whether he'd be able
to pull it off.  That selfsame look betrays me

every time I try to fall out of love, which is like
trying to fall headfirst out of a deep hole or
like that woman trying to return to a time when her
presence on the beach made men forget the waves
and their wives or like Judas looking for a way
to spend the thirty pieces of silver he got
in exchange for the fractured remains of his soul.

Tom C. Hunley


The Man Who Was Smarter Than Himself

There was a man who was smarter than himself
by a full twenty IQ points, who kept swindling himself
in high stakes solitaire games, baffling himself

with his logic, and letting himself copy
his college homework.  One day, having lunch by himself,
he looked up from his Baudrillard and muttered to himself  

about the pretensions of others, but he caught himself
not paying attention. He caught himself
staring, through the corner of a strained eye,

at a woman who was eating by herself. 
She was more beautiful than herself
as she cringed into a mirror and called herself a Pimply Patty.

“Are you listening to me?” the man asked himself,
but he heard himself say “You're not so smart,”
and he watched himself straighten his tie,

 clear his throat, and approach the woman,
and he debated with himself
over the right words to say.

 Tom C. Hunley 


Uninhibited, Baby
 

I want to be uninhibited like my baby boy
who does not fuss about manners
but drools on the bedsheets, shouts out
in church, and does not say, Hallelujah,
but grins and groans and grabs at my shirt,

and who, no matter how many times we burp him,
always has more projectile puke to take to the bank,
to the new neighbor's living room, or to the food court at the mall,

who will not take his own moral inventory or even the first step,
will not toe a party line or visualize world peace,
but cries and craps and tries to crawl,

and will not talk politely on the telephone to long-distance relatives,
and will not be ignored
even when he's asleep on my lap,
stretching like a tightrope or the ignition cord on a power lawnmower,

 a diapered despot
who doesn't bother to comb over the bald spot on his crown
and is spellbound every minute of every Teletubbies episode,

and every day I study his countenance and try to learn
how to be uninhibited like him, as uninhibited
as the dawn's first sunbeam when it skips
all preliminaries and formal introductions,
careering downward to caress my face.

Tom C. Hunley 


The Dental Hygienist

 
 

She said “open up,”
so I showed her my teeth,
a chipped-white fence
that keeps my tongue penned in.

 

She rinsed my mouth.

 

She suctioned my cheek. 

 

She said “How do you like this town?”
so I said “Mmpllff,”
though I meant “More every day!”

 

and she said “Gorgeous weather!”
so I said “Mmpllff”
though I meant “In my mouth?”

 

and she didn't say anything,
so I said “Mmpllff” and “Mmpllff”
though I'm not sure what I meant,
and she took me to mean
“Would you like to go out tonight?”
and “to an expensive restaurant?”

 

When I arrived with a bouquet of roses,
she stuffed them in my mouth.

 

 She told me all about her feelings:
how she feels about fillings,
how she feels about failures.

 

She said “open up.”
She said “It's like pulling teeth
to get guys to talk about their feelings.”

 

So I said “Mmpllff,”
though I meant “You smell prettier than the flowers in my mouth,”
and I said “Mmpllff,”
though I meant “I'm afraid of dying alone.”

 

She said I was a good conversationalist
and showed me her perfect teeth.
I felt an ache in my jaw.
I felt drool crawling down my chin.

 

Tom C. Hunley 


Interdisciplinary Studies

 

A poet's words could be pulled apart
and the letters re-assembled
into copy for a beer commercial,
and this is called literary criticism.

 

A nation could be taken apart
like an engine and rebuilt
using imported parts
and that is called political science.

 

My house could be broken apart
and burned to warm the homeless —
which would then include me —
and this is called economics.

 

Your emotions could be torn apart,
and a shrink could make you paint
your severed ear the deepest blue ever seen,
and that is called oceanography, or psychology, or art history.

 

 Then you could ask me
“What is the meaning of all this?”
and that's philosophy,
and I would reply
“God, I don't know,”
which, some days, is all the theology I can muster.

 

Tom C. Hunley