Shotgun Shells and Other Empty Vessels

I don’t know who aimed the weapons, or where.
I collect the discarded ammo casings
in turnouts on dirt roads,
raw hewn edges of
clearcuts. Trees
shorn to greyscale,
shotgun shells echoing
their landscape’s emptiness, emptiness.

If I don’t beg for my life,
how will anyone know that
I don’t want to die?
I have witnessed the gutting of grace,
the force it takes
to pry a bullet from a gun,
tear a tree from the earth,
remove me from my self.

Front page terrors and fear of strangers and
flinching at touch.
A doe carcass splayed in the bed
of a red pickup truck, always red;
a guilty man swaggering shamedrunk
and bragging nonsense.
If she didn’t want to die,
she would have learned how to speak.

The hillsides wait, endlessly treeless
and ready to receive the report,
the echo,
the fallout. The felling.
Only shells remain. The stumps, the casings.
The bodies are always removed:
merchandise or evidence,
or souvenirs.

I collect ammo casings as souvenirs, or evidence.
The trees become whatever trees become:
tree-shaped merchandise.

I don’t know
where those bullets are now
but there will always be more bullets.

I don’t know what else has died here,
or if it ever learned how to speak,
or who would have listened if it did.