rifle II


Rifle II
Rudy Francisco

On average
the Mexican government
confiscates approximately
38,000 illegal firearms per year.

After the guns are taken,
they get dismantled
and the metal is used to make
other types of weapons that will
later be utilized by their military.

In 2012,
Pedro Reyes,
an artist from Mexico City,
convinced his government
to donate the guns to him

so he could turn them into
musical instruments.

So somewhere
there is a tambourine,
a drum set, a guitar,
all made out of things
that were used to take people’s lives,
but now they create a sound
that puts life back into people’s bodies,
which is to say,

a weapon will always be a weapon
but we choose how we fight the war,
and from this I learned that even our most

destructive instruments can still create a melody
worth dancing to
and sometimes isn’t that also called a battle?

I wonder how long it took to convince
the first rifle that it could hold a note
instead of a bullet, but still fire into a crowd
and make everyone move.

When I was six,
I was taught how to throw a punch,
In the 80s, that was the anti-bullying movement.

The first time one of my classmates
took a yo mama joke a little too far,
I remembered all of my training,
I hit the boy in the face,

I turned his nose into a fountain.
My fist was five pennies.

I closed my eyes,
I made a wish,
I came home with bloody knuckles,
and it was the first piece of
artwork we hung on the fridge.

I remember staring at my hands
the same way you stare at a midterm
when all your answers are correct.
I had no idea what class this was
but I did know I was passing
and isn’t that what masculinity has become?

A bunch of dudes afraid of their own feelings,
terrified of any emotion other than anger,
yelling at shadows on the wall,
but still haven’t realized
that we’re the ones standing in front of the light.

We learn how to dodge a jab,
we learn how to step in before we swing,

we learn that the heart is the same size as the fist,
but we keep forgetting they don’t have the same functions.
We keep telling each other to man up
when we don’t even know what that means.

We turn our boys into bayonets,
point them in the wrong direction,
pull their triggers and fail to acknowledge
all the damage they are doing in the distance.

The word “repurpose”
means to take an object
and give it amnesia.

It means to make something forget what
it’s been trained to do so you can
use it for a better reason.

I am learning that this body is not a shotgun.
I am learning that this body is not a pistol.
I am learning that a man is not defined
by what he can destroy.

I am learning that a person
who only knows how to fight
can only communicate in violence
and that shouldn’t be anyone’s first language.

I am learning that the difference between
a garden and a graveyard is only what
you choose to put in the ground.

One day,
I came across a picture of a strange-looking violin.
The caption said it was made out of a rifle
and I was like,

that can be me.”