One Shotgun Shell Through the Back

Monica Rico


The county fair marks the end of summer in Saginaw.
My father and uncle didn’t eat a caramel apple. Their car
is parked blocks away and there is no gun
not yet, that comes later, after my father is beat up, his brother
will not wait for the bruises to turn purple and brown.
They are driving and from outside the carnival’s lights are silent.

At dusk, those backstreets are covered with people on porches silent
unable to help because this type of thing has happened before in Saginaw
where Mexicans know that they can’t call the cops because their brown
skin won’t save them during this dusk. No one is ready to turn the car
around, the baseball bat between my father and his brother
rolls from leg to thigh, pointing at the glove box, pointing at the gun.

The same gun my father bought for his brother, that gun.
Beneath blood, a broken rib, the word motherfuckers but mostly silent
when my father is almost safe riding beside his brother
in the city that breathes motor oil, bits of rubber, and hubcaps, Saginaw
where their father brought home a ’52 Chevy, the family’s first car
that my father and his brother pulled apart and rebuilt with their hands so brown.

Brown like the whole family, the entire neighborhood, brown
with eyes on the street, hands on the glove compartment, gun
inside unused, not idling, not groaning like the engine in this car
a metal ribcage with eight cylinders refusing to be silent.
Who says, do you wanna keep going, keep driving until Saginaw
ends. Where my father can turn the radio on and look at his brother.

Will my father remember this, that they almost, but didn’t. His brother
for the first time not smiling, holding on to the wheel tightly with brown
hands because even now they are not safe in Saginaw.
Cops will pull over any Mexican man just to see if they flinch at the shine of a gun.
My father, my uncle will look straight ahead, they know to keep silent
when told, this is too nice to be your car.

My uncle died while opening the door to his car.
His chest torn open with one shotgun shell through the back. Brother,
my father said under too much light, all that white silent
like my father’s hand next to the body that was once brown,
alive, and not this cool shell that remains from the blast of one gun,
a shout to come back, back to me, even in this city of Saginaw.

My father’s brother was brown,
was silent, was walking away from the gun
when it was decided that he was not going to get back in his car, not in Saginaw.


Monica Rico - photo

Monica Rico grew up in Saginaw, Michigan alongside General Motors and the legend of Theodore Roethke. She is an avid fan of space exploration, home cooking, and beautifully tall glasses of champagne.





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