I hold the pen & notepad, raised
to each other, but not touching.
Outside, the air thickens with
cold. Wind lifts the stiffened branches
of the apricot, wiping away
a few more of its leaves.
This is the shallow entrance
to winter, when sunflowers shrivel
like the faces of dead animals
on the roadside; when the earth
slows its breathing
& everything sinks into the long,
gray sleep. There was another murder
last night—another man, like me—
wide meadows of lives closed
by his gun. I am trying to write,
trying to do what I am able.
I sit in the warm house while everywhere
flowers wilt into nothing. Soil hardens
to ice & nothing gets in
or out. The apricot tree falls
to pieces around itself—
shriveled stones of fruit
thud below, & are buried,
by the snow.
—from Rattle #66, Winter 2019
Tyler Mortensen-Hayes: “I read recently that 39 U.S. states require their schools to hold regular active shooter drills. Imagine that. A country where we have to prepare our children for mass violence as if it were a fire, or an earthquake—unpredictable, unfathomable, yet entirely feasible. As if it comes from out of the very ground on which we raise them to walk.”