She researches genealogy. Collects. Organizes. Obsesses. Discovers distant relatives all along the Adriatic Coast. Roots stretching across continents and seas.

But don’t ask her about cells or strands of DNA. About heredity or the odds of what might be passed down.

Don’t ask her for the truth.

There is a story the family tells. Well-rehearsed. Plausible. By now, she may even believe it herself:

It is a hunting accident that killed her brother fifty years ago. A father, his two grown sons in the woods of Big Pocono State Park.

What they don’t say: These are seasoned hunters, antlers and disembodied heads displayed like trophies in their living room and den.

 Someone careless, the story goes, cleaning a gun.

Approximately 1,000 people in the United States and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters every year, and just under a hundred of those accidents are fatalities.

That part is true.

But so is this: There are 20,000 gun suicides in the United States every year, more than 50 every single day.

It can happen right inside the home. In the den, beside the gun cabinet, beneath the 15-point buck hung proudly on the wall.

Note: Blood becomes much harder to remove from carpet once it has dried. Spray the stains with water to keep the area wet. Blot. Do not rub. Apply salt paste. Blot again. Repeat.

But some things never go away.

Note: Over time, bloodstains will set on painted walls, making them more difficult to remove. Wet old stains with water or saliva. Use a soft cloth, not an abrasive sponge. Wipe gently. If that doesn’t work, use a stain-blocking primer to cover the area. Repaint the wall.

Another branch snaps from a family tree.

Mendel’s Laws: of Segregation: of Independent Assortment: of Dominance. Ideas originated with 5,000 pea plants growing in his monastery garden.

Factors: Genes: Alleles.

Brown hair. Sad eyes. No one said depression back then.

Patterns and mutations. So much left to chance.

But of this she is certain: She comes from men who polished gunmetal, who carried rifles and shot rounds. They hunted.

She ducks and gathers.


KRISTINA MORICONI is a poet and essayist. Her work has appeared most recently in Brevity, The Raven's Perch, and Literary Mama. She earned her MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington, and lives in Philadelphia area where she teaches in the MFA program at Rosemont College. She is currently working on a collection of lyric essays.

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