Elegy Reserved for Future Use

My brother places his rifle in my hands
after clearing the chamber. Its oak stock

still warm with his sweat. Everything

is the color of gunmetal: fields
layered with snowfall at dusk,

the distant milk jugs, dusk itself.

He folds his arms around my body,
molds my finger to the trigger. I miss

the easier silences that once rested

between us. Our father is not yet dead,
but it doesn’t matter. We both know

the shape grief takes: a loaded gun

held flush against the shoulder.
One empty casing after another

spinning through the frostbitten air.

Chris Hayes, a Tennessee native, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the creative writing program at Florida State University. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Barnwood International, Fourth River, and Smartish Pace. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife and daughter. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761