Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Valentine’s, Another Day

in Gun Violence/U.S. by

The classroom door has a window,
my daughter told me in the fall,
though it feels like
it was yesterday,
and the walls do not meet
the ceiling, so we were lucky
that the threat was in
the other building.

I have a favorite classroom,
with a solid door, and no windows,
like a dungeon, my friend posted
today in response to a query
about how to keep safe
at work, on another day,
like every day, when
these questions matter.

On one of those days,
a man stands agitated,
outside another school,
studying each person
who enters, pulling one
aside to ask questions.
The principal watches him
through her window, calls
the police. It doesn’t matter why
he is angry, but it does matter
that he is angry
at someone
inside the building.

My younger daughter
didn’t receive any flowers
at school this Valentine’s,
but she was in a good mood
and her friends plucked
the blossoms from theirs
and gave her the barren stems,
which she gathered
into a twiggy bouquet.
She has a sense
of humor, so she posted
a picture and laughed
at her good fortune.

That evening I bought
a set of ramekins and
made molten chocolate
cakes, but I forgot
to set the timer and they baked
just a little too long.
We ate them together, watching
U.S. skaters spin on the ice
half a world away,
and read the news
about Florida.

In culinary arts, at my daughter’s
high school, the room is open
to the lunchroom, and
the teacher had told the class
just thirty minutes before
on that September day
that they could hide
in the storage room,
with the food,
if there ever were a threat.
But, he said, there never
has been
a threat.

That was the day the alarm rang,
and it was eighth period,
not seventh,
so my daughter was
in the other building with the door
that you can see through.
She came home that afternoon
to tell me the story.

And this time, on Valentine’s day,
I was not worried because
she was at school making crepes,
and her sister was laughing
about carnations,
and the man on the corner
was gone.

But this is another day
in America, and the gunshots,
and the whimpers
and the wails, though
today they are not here,
they do not stop,
and the sounds of terror
reverberate for miles and miles
off the red and pink balloons
in the shape of hearts
that float from the school halls
above the bodies
of Parkland’s children.



Remembering the victims at Douglas High School [Sun Sentinel]
Students,  teachers plan boycott on Columbine anniversary until Congress passes gun legislation [Newsweek]

Ann E. Wallace writes of life with illness, motherhood, loss, and other everyday realities. Her work has recently appeared in Wordgathering, The Literary Nest, Eunoia Review, Rogue Agent, The Same, and other journals. She lives in Jersey City, NJ where she teaches English at New Jersey City University. She is on Twitter @annwlace409.

Photo by Alberto Lucas Pérez.

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