Paul’s First Kill

By John Grey

He said it seemed like a good idea at the time.

His father hunted so why shouldn’t he.

And the old man never did lock away his shotgun.

Besides, what other purpose did the surrounding woods serve

than to provide targets for sharp eyes and steady nerves.


No, it wasn’t as if he was being threatened.

The creature was a raccoon sleeping high up in the fork of a tree.

His first shot missed altogether.

That furry bandit stirred but not quickly enough.

The second and third shot hit it in the head.

The corpse dropped at his feet.


He’d never seen anything dead before.

Blood oozed from the side of the head.

Dark eyes stared unblinking at the barrel of his gun.

Does it have a family, he wondered.

And what about a soul?


The dead raccoon was his guilty secret for a whole seven days.

The way his face mobilized so pale and furtive,

his mother knew something was up.

His father didn’t notice however.

He didn’t once check on his rifle to see that it had been fired.


His mother finally grabbed him by the shoulders,

shook his body until the lies spilling from his mouth

couldn’t help but speak the truth.

He was burning with shame

while she trembled in fear.

“You could have killed yourself,” she said angrily.

It was no doubt a reproach

but, for a moment there, it sounded like an instruction.



John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

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