in Gun Violence/U.S. by

I try to teach / myself that the ocean water was sweet again / and again I leapt into the waves and swallowed the water / like my grandmother swallowed wine at communion like the water / was holy and the swallow was the promise / it never takes long for my throat to burn / it shouldn’t be this hard / salt and sugar both start with s and they’re both small / specks of white that dissolve into blue sometimes I want to dissolve / to break apart so lonely and finely into something bigger / than me so there won’t be any pretending like I know how to exist / as a solid nothing is solid or settled / you can’t pretend salt is sugar just as you can’t pretend / the news isn’t the news / sometimes when the headlines read like just another gunshot / my chemistry teacher must be another one of the liars / how can we be made of the same atoms as salt and sugar because / how could someone who is made of atoms do this / to someone else made of atoms and how can someone made of atoms / be gone / instead of molecule structure today in class my chemistry teacher teaches us how to break / the windows and run and I’m flipping / through my notes atoms make / matter and we are all made of atoms and sugar and salt / we matter


Note: Every time a school shooting happens, my high school teachers try to make a plan to stop bullets with textbooks. They’ve stopped saying “if” and started saying “when.”

Vivian Parkin DeRosa is a poet, writer, and high school student from the Jersey Shore. Her work has been published in Huffington Post and in several literary magazines. She lives in New Jersey, where she teaches and interns at Project Write Now.

Photo by Amanda Munoz.