The Gun Joke (Jamaal May)

It’s funny, she says, how many people are shocked
by this shooting and the next and next and the next.
She doesn’t mean funny as in funny, but funny
as in blood soup tastes funny when you stir in soil.
Stop me if you haven’t heard this one:
A young man/old man/teenage boy walks into
an office/theater/daycare/club and empties
a magazine into a crowd of strangers/family/students.

Ever hear the one about the shotgun? What do you call it
when a shotgun tests a liquor store’s bulletproof glass?
What’s the difference between a teenager
with hands in the air and a paper target charging at a cop?
What do you call it when a man sets his own house on fire,
takes up a sniper position, and waits for firefighters?

Stop me if you haven’t heard this one:
The first man to pull a gun on me said it was only a joke,
but never so much as smiled. The second said
this is definitely not a joke, and then his laughter crackled
through me like electrostatic—funny how that works.
When she says it’s funny she means funny
as in crazy and crazy as in this shouldn’t happen.
This shouldn’t happen as in something is off. Funny as in
off—as in, ever since a small caliber bullet chipped his spine,
your small friend walks kinda’ funny and his smile is off.

Originally published By Indiana Review (winner of the 2013 IR Prize)

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