THE riddle of the WOODEN gun

Title: The Riddle of the Wooden Gun
By: Todd Moore
Genre: Poetry, Trade Paper, 6X9 Digest size
Publisher: Lummox Press (PO Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733-5301)
Pages: 144
ISBN: 978-1-929878-01-7

Publishing Date: Jan. 2009

Retail: $15 + shipping

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See the Riddle of the Wooden Gun promotional video

Todd Moore has been working on a pan-epic poem on John Dillinger for the past 34 years. This latest edition focuses on Dillinger's (read America's) fascination with the gun, wooden and otherwise...

“The spirit of the wooden gun leaves you with scars, wounds, and the bullet holes of language.  It is a wild outlaw ride made even more intense by the compacted words, the thin line beating syllables into a pulse, a pound.  This poem is an endless sentence with no breaks.  It takes you to a different level of consciousness.” -- Tony Moffeit

"I've got to tell you, I'm a fan of your work, have been for a while.  I'm a flat-footed historian, and there are things we do that are worth doing.  But I've always thought that understanding Dillinger and his like is, as you say, a matter of getting below surfaces; this really is dream stuff, fantasy. I really like it.  It is so compact and intense.  The form really does capture something of the man and his deeds and how (I think) people understood him.  Yah, and I really like the idea of the riddle.  So much of the Dillinger story is like a riddle; part of its fascination." -- Elliot Gorn 

"The gun, of course, now, is a shape-shifting totem that we all can embrace.  Like poetry itself, the gun is also a dream that's full of hope and death and loss and rejection and the possibility of limited resurrection.  At the same time, it's pure medicine for all or a slippery guise for a shaman's bluff.  All I know is that I need it.  Plain and simple.  It can serve as the gun I've never carried.  It's also a flash of light in my real darkness.  Congratulations on creating a masterpiece." -- Lawrence Welsh

The shadow of the gun is maybe the shadow of the violent imagery that makes a boy a “man,” the socially conditioned iconography of violence that subjects the children who grow to be the old kind of outlaw as surely as it subjects monks to their novitiates, or maybe it's something less glibly definable, the real power of weapons over us as we touch them, the destructive potential that we are, especially when we stroke weapons and wonder if we might be gods. -- David McClean

Dillinger Footage YouTube


dillinger never
told his
old man
abt the wooden
gun he
found at
the movies
he sneaked
it into
the house
& hid it
under the
bed & when
he had to
turn the lights
off & go
to sleep he’d
put the wooden
gun under
his pillow
dillinger won
dered if a
wooden gun
ever gave
off any light

he was
holding a
in one hand
& a wooden
gun in the
but for
some strange
was afraid
of the
it was the
gun that
had every
one edging
back toward
the wall
some kind
of black
energy was
off the
gun &
just hanging
in the
air like
strands of
very dark
(p 75)

a wooden
gun shot all
to pieces
a wooden
gun thrown
down a
well nightmare
water &
the black
taste of dream
a wooden
gun out of
a fence slat
tom sawyer
painting it
the color
of a dead
man’s face
annie oakley
the barrel
off a wooden
gun that
frank butler
by the grip
between his
( 133-4)