Poetry Friday with April 27 #Verselove

Not Once
I taught for 22 years after Columbine,
And I have had to witness the gradual horror of
my country becoming
the only nation in the world
that accepts gun violence
as a part of going to school.

In Arizona, not once did we
practice for the inevitable.
We had just two lockdowns–
Once for killer bees in the yard
And again when a VP in a neighboring school
became an urban legend
by talking down an eighth grader with a gun.

In Iowa, there were no lockdowns.
For Austin’s hunting “how-to” speech,
He was asked to bring his rifle
to the principal’s office in the morning
instead of storing it his hall locker.

In Manama, the ancient-by-modern
capital city of Bahrain,
my students worried once
that America was going to bomb Iran,
but they never had to worry about
or practice for gun violence.

But now in this place,
it has become inevitable–
It’s a given:
Some American young people will die in their schools.
But all American young people worry and wonder.

They prepare, they lie quietly,
pretending an active shooter
Is in the hallway trying to kill their teacher
trying to kill their classmates
trying to kill them
with a gun.

Join tens of thousands of others on June 5th.
We are going to Denver to demand action.
We’re #Here4theKids.
Please join us.

Photo by @mrsdkrebs

I’m carrying this poem by Carl Sandburg in my pocket. Click the image to read the poem in text.

Today’s #Verselove prompt is “Place Tells Me to Be” with Chea Parton.

Today Ruth is hosting Poetry Friday at There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town. It’s her 17th blog anniversary, and she has pulled out a chair for us to sit down and rest awhile. 

13 thoughts on “Poetry Friday with April 27 #Verselove

  1. Great post! It’s important to keep putting out there the idea that our society values guns more than children, or most anything, really.

  2. That final Sandburg line, & of course, he wrote it long ago. He knew then how unrelentingly specious the argument is. I was with students out of state when Columbine happened (& you know I’m in Denver). When we told them they wouldn’t believe us. We let them call their parents & all found the truth, some had friends from church who had died. Colorado just passed tougher gun laws though I’m sure they will be contested. Thanks, Denise, for a powerful post.

  3. I’m so glad you are writing about this and include a way for people to take action. My son is a high school senior, and he’s been through so many lockdowns–for a gun on campus, or in the neighborhood, or a threat–that he is numb to them now. Thank goodness, no physical harm has come of these threats except one student hit on the head with the side of a gun, and he recovered. I’m very glad the school takes these precautions, and I am also struck by the impact on education of just having these threats and lockdowns (even though they pale in comparison to horrific physical harm).

  4. Thank you, Denise. There are so many things to worry about in our schools these days. It’s incomprehensible that gun violence has to be one of those worries. The anxiety level is too high to learn right now. I try to celebrate the small victories of learning, kindness and growth. But, I long for a time when I could just set all my worries down. It is a constant prayer.

  5. Oh wow Denise. Thank you for your powerful poem and advocacy.

  6. Denise, your poem is an invitation to ponder the horrible realities of mental health and mass deaths in schools. Although I never lived through the horror of this, we did have lockdowns in my last school district where I was a districtwide administrator. Your words. “inevitable” and “a given”, bring such sadness to mind. I get texts from parents of the Sandy Hook asking to sign petitions which I do but each time is another bullet in already deep wounds. Continue to fight for stricter gun laws. They are needed.

  7. Your poem is heart wrenching and only too true. It feels so hopeless sometimes. It is beyond reprehensible that today’s kids have to go to school with this underlying fear that they, their teachers, or their classmates may be shot. Thanks for your advocacy and for sharing Sandburg’s poem too (new to me).

  8. Your “some” and “all” lines…so true. I was in a school on an author visit once when a lockdown drill happened. We crowded into the gymnasium equipment closet it, turned out the lights, and listened to our own breathing and the sound of fear. I was with K-1 students. Thank you for advocating!

  9. Thanks for your advocacy, Denise–I’m there with you on June 5th, somewhere close to our nation’s capital, and your poem, which centers the experience of teachers and children, balances beautifully with Carl Sandburg’s rediscovered treasure of diatribe which centers the gun. Like the balance of your smocked-colt image. Wow.

  10. Echoing Heidi: Thanks for your advocacy. Your poem is strong and important.

  11. Ooh, those are some good poems–yours and Sandburg’s. Very powerful. These days little people have to go to school with bullet-proof backpacks. Horrible, just horrible.

  12. The Sandburg poem is quite the find. And yours throws a powerful punch. Or should I say shoots a powerful bullet. I am so fed up with the same arguments falling upon deaf and dumb politicians. Good luck with Denver in June. The day teachers have to carry guns will be the last day I ever set foot in a school.

Comments are closed.