Issue 35, Final Fringe

J's AK

by Harmony Button Issue 25 12.13.2010

March 17, 2006:

He left like he always did, hands in pockets down the steps, the crunch of snow, the glass between us suddenly a headline, picture frame, a slap in the face: early cuts of sunshine bright and dry on the sidewalk, snowplow slag, the icy road.  I always feel left behind.  I am here, still here, still breathing the same air, the warm and muddle of it all, and you get to leave here, tick-tock, move along.

The street: gray-white, white, wet.  Slouching jacket, clutch of red.  His hair still shocked me in its redness, the likeness of it.  Mine, I wanted to say, mine, my kin, my kind.  I watched him push the snow off his car with an arm: a swipe and shove, bare fist pulled back inside the sleeve.  I wanted to break into it – to run out in the cold, bare feet in snow, as if the shock of it could make things different.  Look: I will do this for you – barefoot in the street.

What more can you do than run barefoot in the snow after someone?  Stop traffic and shout long vowels until your breath runs out?  Ask him if he’d like another cup of tea and please maybe to reconsider flying off to Africa (and what is Africa?) or to at least postpone this trip until he had a visa, an invitation from the Congolese consulate, something, something…safer.  This is crazy.  Crazy fool I love you barefoot love –

*  *  *

The AK-47 (Автомат Калашникова образца 1947 года, Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947) is a hell of a gun.  The first Russian-designed assault rifle, it is a bulldog among gentlemen: thick in the shoulders, taut through the jaw.  Its hands are clammy beefsteak, good to open pickle jars and tight gaskets.  No hot water / knocking / rubber squeegee action for this number, Big Papa is grunt and thrust: grab that doozie palm to palm and twist the fucker’s head off.  Pop

The gun has heft – a wood and metal baby for the bundle.  It’s a compact unit, unrefined, efficient, the first of its kind and the most popular.  It is not a fussy lady, no – no frills, no muss, no fuss, bada-bing, bada-boom.  Design-wise, the AK is a squat slow cooker: shortened Mauser cartridge case and lighter bullets than its precursor the submachine gun, this classic is simple, tidy, gets the job done – bang-up done.  It operates at a range of up to 300m – the Russian response to the WWII German 100m range assault rifle that ripped through infantry like dull buckshot, crude and devastating.

During the Cold War the AK was a bedtime story: the warm shoulder you hold against the night. Stockpiles accumulated and the weapons spread out from warehouses to homes, to basements, sweater closets, because there are times when you think you might be in need of more than just one bullet – more than one and one and one – when you think you may need many bullets, all at once, a blanket of bullets to keep you warm and tight.  Bullets like wool coats with high collars, big buttons, flasks of spirits in the ripping pockets.  Bullets like bread you can wolf down, bread in hot fistfuls torn from the loaf.

The Soviet Bloc: a unit, a machine, simple, centralized.  Glossy from the outside, a grit in the mix.  The AK: large segmented operations, easily cleaned and maintained.  The wide clearance areas between moving parts allows the weapon to perform at near optimal ratings despite the presence of foreign matter: sand, water, gore.  The AK is the man with scruff on his face, a bleeding head wound; a snake bite and no water in the desert who, when stumbling into the Bedouin oasis, still manages to sneak a kiss from the pretty native girl who nurses him.  You can bury an AK in the sand for a decade, dig it up, throw it back together and the mother will still fire.

*  *  *

I am reminded that guns are not romantic.  I am sipping French Vanilla cocoa in my cozy Salt Lake Avenues apartment.  I have fuzzy slippers and three blankets on my bed.  At night I sleep with my lips pressed to Jason’s forehead, a perpetual blessing: please keep this man safe, or else, please let him – or, I want to give – no.  None of these are quite what I wish, his head under my chin, mop top, lovely.  I don’t mind the lack of words for what I wish for him: the best blessings are always wordless gatherings.

Guns are not romantic.  Why should I describe the AK in language that is three layered German chocolate cake, sugar butter rich and coconut, a cream and frosted slathering –

Because these things scare me, I say.  And because you’ve held one in your arms.

*  *  *

The camera, however, is very sexy: a Panasonic AG-HVX200 HD/DVCPRO/DV Cinema P2 with CineSwitchTM Technology, CineGammaTM Software and IEEE 1394 Interface.  When J looks through it – when J disappears behind the eye, that lidless bitch that catches everything, that refuses to look away or be distracted, implicated by participation – when J snugs down into the grip of this purblind soothsayer –  all that you can see of him is streaks of copper hair and mouth half parted, lightweight 23lb chassis of magnesium alloy attaching face to the soft maw of the viewfinder, replacing face with hard eye of the lens.  And through that milky pupil, through that opening of possibilities, succumbed to the safety of its indiscretion, J sees reality in 60-frame-per-second HD digital imagery.

*  *  *

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Harmony Button

Harmony Button

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Harmony Button has been awarded the Larry Levis Prize from the Academy of American Poets (2006) and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Web awards in 2010. She has earned degrees from Middlebury College and University of Utah (MFA). You can find more of her work in publications such as Epiphany, BlazeVOX, Eastown Fiction, Mantis, AfterImage, White Whale Review and SLEET Magazine.