Back to Issue Twenty-Six.

Family Portrait with Forsythia and Hunting Rifle



Some of us are missing. There’s a bride
but not in white. My mother’s in blue,
the slender straps, the rich

and rumpled linen. She’s a splinter.

Her sister’s chosen floral
for her second wedding, she’s chosen a man

who wears camo to the Shop & Save,
who listens to John Denver and cleans his guns
in the unheated basement. As best as I remember,

he was kind. None of us knows what happens
behind the locked doors of our neighbors’ houses.
We were raised in the strip malls suburbs, land of

cul de sacs and smooth tan sidewalks.
We were raised to believe that violence

was what happened elsewhere. When the camera
finally catches us we’re blinking into the late-August sun,
the forsythia by the side porch blooming

in a sickly sweetness, though it’s the wrong season

for that, so the memory bends and ripples.
There’s a knot inside the synapse

where remembering should be. Years later,
after so many other things went wrong,
the groom’s son came into his father’s room

and shot him as he slept. They lived

close to us. I could, at thirteen, have walked
there after school. I never did. It was the suburbs,

no one walked anywhere. There were guns
in our house, too.


Nancy Reddy is the author of Double Jinx (Milkweed Editions, 2015), a 2014 winner of the National Poetry Series, and Acadiana (Black Lawrence Press, 2018). Poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Pleiades, Blackbird, the Iowa Review, Smartish Pace, and elsewhere. The recipient of a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Sustainable Arts Foundation, she teaches writing at Stockton University in southern New Jersey.

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