/j martin

Shooting Cans

Because we never favored a spray of blood,
because we knew killing would press

nightly upon our stomachs, we’d fire our pellets
into the bellies of cans – baked beans,

condensed milk, my father’s flat beer – and pretend
we were making short work of cartilage

and bone: a squirrel sun-drunk
on a branch, a raccoon teetering too close

to our picket line. By that first summer in our war
against sealed food, we’d wiped out

a pantry’s worth of my mother’s canned goods
and still we enjoyed lining tomato sauce

along the driveway, pumping our rifles, and firing
until chunky red spouted like oil summoned

from a West Texas derrick. How we especially savored
cans of peaches submerged in heavy syrup,

maraschino cherries dark as gizzard’s hearts,
and so patiently placed a shot into the aluminum’s

lower abdomen, knelt as in ritual to drink
from the wound, and though we laughed, we knew

at eleven years old that death would never
again coat our tongues like that with nectar.


A PhD student in Creative Writing at Georgia State University, Joshua Lee Martin has been published or has work forthcoming in The Cortland Review, The Nashville Review, Louisiana Literature, Appalachian Heritage, The Raleigh Review, and elsewhere. He recently was a finalist in the 2016 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Competition and the 2016 Coal Hill Review Contest, and his chapbook, Passing Through Meat Camp, was a finalist in the 2015 Jacar Press Chapbook Competition. He currently teaches Composition at Georgia State University.