how things get done – Rita Dove

I believe that my poems work best when violence simmers just under the surface. It’s more frightening, more threatening, to feel it is right beneath this polite, contained exterior, ready to burst. Take the poem “Meditation at Fifty Yards, Moving Target.” It’s a poem about guns and the eerie pleasure of target shooting, the power and the danger. Since gun control is a very bristly topic in this country – everyone has an opinion – our defense go up immediately. I wanted to circumvent all that by backing into the issue.

The personal story behind all this begins with the house fire, too. My husband and I took up target practice when a neighbor approached us after the fire and offered to teach us how to shoot. He said we should at least know something about self-defense. He was a retire high-ranking army officer. He started out from the standpoint of safety – here’s what you have to do to keep from shooting off your own toe; this is what you need to know in order not to hurt anyone. I didn’t want anything to do with the whole thing –  forget it, I don’t want to hold the gun, this is horrible. But as I began firing, I felt something very interesting happening – an immense, unsettling pleasure, a strange sense of power and possibility. Now, I could have sat at my desk and denied those feelings, said no, this is wrong. But that doesn’t mean the sensation doesn’t exist, nonetheless. I think it’s important to acknowledge these kinds of feelings if we’re going to understand anything at all about controlling them.