Volume 26, Number 4

The Origin of Fear

The first time I shot a gun,
I was on a dark levee
above a receding creek,
fidgeting with the safety guard,
until taking aim at an inclined slope.

After the fireball from the chamber
singed the hair off my hand,
I raked the dirt below with my fingers
searching for the shell,
and ran from the scene,
not thinking that the bullet
had to descend at some point,
and the terminal velocity
would only drop slightly.

Years later, a friend’s father
explained how he was driving for groceries
when a small circle of light
radiated in a direct line
from the windshield to the passenger’s

Around the same time, a 15-year-old boy
sitting in a bedroom, hears a cluster of shots,
falls to the floor below the life goals
written on the walls,
feeling the pool of blood
encapsulate his head,
his speech too delayed to yell for help.

Today, I browse the internet, repeatedly
filtering through victims of unsolved shootings
dating back x amount of years,
trying to believe that all of my lead tips
died at the end of their flights,
simply fell into an empty field
or a cool body of water.

—Tamer Mostafa