At Scout Camp, there was a rifle
and a paper target and
I shot that paper target right
through the eye, bullet
after bullet, shot it dead
again and again
for the merit badge,
the three multicolored patches,
the three certificates from the National
Rifle Association, yes,
National Rifle Association, what
a beautiful name for a boy
still a boy who still sleeps
under cowboy sheets, I
could almost smell
the hunter I would become,
feeding my family pheasant
and venison and bear, and
this morning's paper had a story about clubs
where they shake quail out of cages,
they shake them and kick
so they fly, one wild moment
before men who pay ten bucks each to kill
fifty, sixty, seventy at a stretch kill them, this
a headline only when the Vice President blasts
shot into a friend's face, TV squeezing this for comedy
where studio audiences bust up before the punchlines,
but before you laugh, I have to tell you this:

that line of Boy Scouts stood

with loaded guns, we
stared down crisp black circles
hung near the bottom of a hill
where trees start to thicken into forest,
and before the scoutmaster's okay to fire,

a voice said,

boys popped, "What!"

"What!" "What!"


one hand pointing at the hilltop,
a pair of horns

passing behind branches,

careful steps
followed by the antler-less,

to tiniest

in a line along the crest,

we all, every one of us, pointing
our fingers, every one of us


Matt Mason lives in Omaha with his wife (poet Sarah McKinstry-Brown) and two daughters. His first book, Things We Don't Know We Don't Know, won the 2007 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry. He's been published in over 100 magazines and has his MA from the University of California, Davis. His website is