eyesight twenty-twenty in a land of mangled metaphor

by | Dec 30, 2020 | December 2020 Writing | 6 comments

what if I told you that today I took a gun and went looking

to thrust it into the face of

someone helpless

with the intention to discover just what makes

for the thrill of it but then

the old lady appeared


I saw her quite like myself, saw I was incapable

but the gun instructs the fear,



a moment years ago when the smell

of humid air and decaying old mansions

and hash fired in a spoon over aluminum

and sandbagged walls

taunts and bombs

dark lonely walks in rich neighborhoods,

boulevards lined in live oak

azalea and bougainvillea,

way past midnight

trudging long into a pale dawn’s

pall over Escher-jumbled

mansions and strip malls,

gun talk and gun shots,

a hit man’s offer

and a friends’ brother dying in a jungle

caught in a cult


old lady in the mirror, what if I told you the gun

instructs the hand, the heft of it

decides the target


this morning, I awoke with my hands

balled in fists

my throat caught

unable to find a single adequate word





  1. jennifer vanderheyden

    Wow, Martha…this is gripping! Such raw emotion and juxtaposed images! And the ending! Amazing title as well. Some of my favorite lines:

    “old lady in the mirror, what if I told you the gun

    instructs the hand, the heft of it

    decides the target”

    “I only have two suggestions: consider changing these lines to:

    I saw her quite like myself, saw I was incapable

    but the gun instructs wandering fear,”

    In the middle portion, I feel I needed just one more hint of the narrator.

    Thank you, and Happy & Healthy 2021!

  2. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Thank you, Jennifer. Happy and Healthy coming 2021! I hope to read your work next roundtable. I’m considering moving the “wandering” to the beginning to the next stanza– which is where its content belongs. I had been working for the enjambment, but I see it actually confuses the content. (Nonetheless, will think about what you are suggesting.) Thanks so much. Healthy, happy again.

  3. Suzanne van de Velde

    Martha – I was pulled into this beautiful piece, your opening with such calm fury:
    “with the intention to discover just what makes…” (such a beautiful line!), to the “taunts and bombs.” I see the narrator, her head down, heading to a target, until at the very end she stops. The “old lady in the mirror” is due a reckoning.

    “What if I told you” could be a sneering correction, a warning or a weary tag line. For me, everything detonates with perfect weight, movement and percussive notes (caught in a cult). My suggestions: in the penultimate stanza, “decides” is too weak/vague a verb. When I read “my throat caught” in the last stanza, I wanted to see that throat caught by some power, volition.
    Thanks for being such a generous Roundtable companion, and here’s to the fucking end of 2020!

  4. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Thanks, Suzanne. And thank you for the Roundtable companionship. End of 2020— and here’s to Georgia, to save us again! Please be careful out there– this thing’s escalating before we can cage it. Don’t be a stranger to Roundtable, or other BG workshops, friend. And re this poem above— working on something for “decides,” though it is the heft and not the head that guides the bullet. Hugs.

  5. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Martha, what a potent and powerful piece, like the bullet piercing a vital organ. The impetus and movement in this, in combination with the ‘asides’ or self references to the speaker are staggeringly powerful! It’s been so much fun to read your work, mostly poems, yet reaching and striving, all of them, to make sense of the writer, or the time, or the crazy world in which we currently live. I’m grateful for your support of BG- deeply proud to call you friend. Hopefully in 2021, we can sit around the fire at Synergia, or take walks to the Cedar Valley pond. Happy New Year, dear friend! xoxo

  6. Rogan

    Martha, this is gorgeous work. The edge and surprise of it are special. My only note is I’d think about cutting the opening “I” from the second stanza. Allow for the informal, spoken quality of “Saw her quite like myself, saw I was incapable”

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