Gold Stars

in Gun Violence by

There’s nothing kids won’t do for them.
So I won’t tell your kids to be distractions,
to throw books when The Shooter comes,
no matter what the sheriff says. Just run,

and I will do the grown-up job, will grab
the plastic blue 5-gallon bucket every teacher got
a couple dozen deaths ago, will fumble
for the can of aerosol-propelled wasp

killer, aim for his eyes and if I hit,
give me a star, and if I’m hit, give stars
to every kid who didn’t stick around to
splint and pack me like the nurses taught.

I hate gold stars. I hate that bucket,
into which a 3rd-grader threw up last time
we did a lockdown drill. I love Kendrick
Castillo. I call him hero in my heart,

but I won’t say the word around your kids
because this isn’t indoor voice or walking feet
or random acts of kindness, and there’s nothing
they won’t do to meet an expectation. I hate

this poem. I hate this stupid war, and I am sad
and sorry for its Gold Star moms and dads.
I hate, already, hero shifting into show your
work. It’s not their work, but there is

nothing I can do if you won’t say so.
If the sheriff with his big gold star
comes back to do his job, comes back
to teach how best to make more child heroes,

I can’t stop your kids from nodding, learning.
As if they knew the lesson all along.

A previous contributor at Poets Reading the News, Sean Kelbley works as an elementary school counselor. His poems have appeared at Crab Creek Review, New Verse News, One, RATTLE, Rise Up Review, and other fine places.

Photo by Jose Alonso.


School shootings and the heroes who shouldn’t be
[The New Yorker]

Friday is National Gun Violence Awareness Day