Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


I’m Safe in [Insert City Here]

in Gun Violence/U.S. by


I want grandchildren, my father whines.
I bring up the most recent school shooting to support
my childlessness. My father counters: his greatest joy is

his children, he loves us all so much – but I remember
the death threat I got as a teenager:

I have guns and bombs hidden in lockers, I’m going to kill you
all in the order your names are on this email. You can run and tell
that bitch principal, she can’t save you.

I was number nine on the list to die.

It was a post-Columbine world, our parents called the police
who traced the email to a scared, bullied, kid, looking
to be included, never intending to hurt anyone,
only wanting to be a part of something –

he’d put himself on the list, next to me.

I consider the Facebook statuses I’ve posted in my lifetime:
I’m safe in [insert city here] and how my father never knew
fear like I know fear. His was a different generation:
a foreign invader; mine is my neighbor, a classmate I was kind to.

But our fathers are dying, leaving schools stacked
with the bodies of their grandchildren: sacrifices to the NRA,
bloody shrines to the right to bear assault weapons.

Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers
can’t protect you, that bitch can’t save you echoes in my head
seventeen years later – I just don’t know
I say to my father, if I’ll ever want kids.


Thea Robin Engst received an MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in Poetry from Emerson College. Her nonfiction book “Drink Like a Bartender” was published by Simon & Schuster this fall.  Her poetry can be found in “SWWIM Every Day”, “Poets Reading the News”, “Up the Staircase Quarterly”, “Sugar House Review”, “Gutter Eloquence” and “Runaway Parade”.  She have two forthcoming poems in “The Paragon Journal”.

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny.


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