“I Tell My Son to Cover Himself in Someone Else’s Blood” by Rachel Mallalieu

Rachel Mallalieu


Last night, I told my son
that if he sees a shooter coming, he needs to
hide in a file cabinet or underneath
a covered table.
If he’s in the bathroom, he should
stand on the toilet and lock the stall door.
If there’s nowhere to go,
I asked him to paint
himself with someone else’s
blood and play
Give him a break my husband murmured.
Let him relax a bit.
Simon needed extra prayers
at bedtime.
Say my name out loud.
Tell God to keep me safe, or at least
don’t let him come while I’m in art
class. During shooter drills,
my teacher forgot to lock
the door and the window is too big
to cover with paper.
I smoothed the circles under
his eyes while I begged God
to keep him here, with me.
Today, the forest is a cathedral
and cedar trees waft incense.
The blossoms are a riotous crowd
—tulip poplars, mountain laurel,
dogwoods and wisteria.
The “About Me” poster outside
Simon’s fourth grade
classroom says he loves our dog
Theo and tacos.
His favorite color is green.
He wants to be a doctor.
The trees hush the sirens
and only the flowers hear the
whispered coda to my prayer.
If he comes, God, and Simon
can’t hide, please
please God,
let me be there too.
The blooms, mute gods, bend
their faces toward my cries
and promise

from Poets Respond
May 29, 2022


Rachel Mallalieu: “I send five children to school each day. I have a fourth grade son. I cannot stop weeping. I cannot stem my rage.” (web)

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