My Dad’s Gun


As a kid, I found my dad’s gun

rusted and collecting dust behind

his framed diploma, atop a bookshelf,


a summer afternoon spent at his house,

snooping around while he was away at work.

When I asked him about it he said


he was walking home from a party

in the Bronx when two shadows

jumped out of an alley, shoved


a gun in his face and demanded

he empty his pockets. But when

the streetlight’s glow fell on his face


they noticed not the terror in his eyes

but rather his Caribbean curls

in a neat fro, his dark goosebumped skin,


and backed off, said oh, sorry papo.

One of them gave him a pat on the shoulder

before slipping back into the alley.


The next day he bought a gun,

unregistered, illegal, but wore it

everywhere he went just in case,


tucked into the waistline of his pants

even when he was taking classes

at City College and wore a full suit:


blue pants and jacket, white shirt,

red tie, black shoes he shined

every morning, trying to reflect


the success he knew was possible

in this country, and didn’t really think

much of the gun after a while, until


one night, coming home from school

later than usual he found himself alone

in the compartment of an uptown train,


reading the newspaper. At the stop

before his, a band of five guys rushed

into the car, one of them hiding


something under his jacket, holding it

like a pregnant belly. My dad reached for his gun,

let his hand touch the cold metal


as the hand of a police officer

stopped the doors from closing,

stepped onto the train with his partner


and an old, silver haired woman who pointed

at everyone and confirmed with the officers

that yes, they were the ones who stole her purse.


As they put the guys in cuffs, one of the officers

glanced at my dad— who hadn’t moved,

looking guiltier than anyone,


hand still frozen under his jacket,

sweat darkening his collar—

and shook his head as if to say


can you believe these guys? My dad

smiled back and bolted off the train,

thinking about deportation, or worse,


sprinting the few extra blocks home

in the cold, under streetlights casting

their long fingered shadows.

Ariel Francisco is the author of All My Heroes Are Broke (C&R Press, 2017) and Before Snowfall, After Rain (Glass Poetry Press, 2016). Born in the Bronx to Dominican and Guatemalan parents, he was raised in Miami and completed his MFA at Florida International University. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2016, Gulf Coast,, Prelude, Washington Square, and elsewhere. He lives in South Florida (for now).