The First Time

by Carl Boon

When I went away the first time,
I noticed blue jays
high in the maples
along the avenue. My father

who held a pistol
to his neck lay bleeding
where all could see him.
My suitcase was small.

The neighbors disappeared
behind their blinds. They saw
how little I was, how the world
would swallow me before Omaha.

But I walked fast, pawning
my mother’s pearls on 12th Avenue
for hamburgers and ice cream.
On the bus to Lincoln

I was anonymous and happy.
The whiskey-drinking men
barely looked, and when they did,
it was as uncles would,

shyly. A thunderstorm
almost stopped me, but I went on,
switching Lincoln for Sioux Falls,
clutching my dollars on the toilet.

It was warm. The corn was
warm and rising, and my diary,
green squiggles and all,
was finally mine. When the Black

Hills came with sunrise, I vowed
never to return, but I knew
there would be snow,
dead panners of gold, the old

truth of the gun-blast.
I was fourteen. I was going,
going—and the fountain coins
were a mercy, and I suspected

he did his best, the blast, the blood,
the ambulance men shrugging.
But I missed my mother’s mashed
potatoes, so I slept.

Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. His poems appear in dozens of magazines, most recently The Maine Review and The Hawaii Review. A 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee, Boon is currently editing a volume on the sublime in American cultural studies.