“The Gun and the Gown” by Conor Kelly

Conor Kelly


for a dead student

The gun has gained against the gown again
and you lie dead beside an upturned chair.
Stuff happens, someone says when we complain.

We clean the classroom desk, remove the stain
of blood and wipe away the traces where
the gun has gone against the gown again.

The library books you borrowed will retain
no sense of your intensive reading there.
Stuff happens, someone says as we complain.

The essays you were writing will remain
undone. You’ve no assignment to prepare.
The gun has gained against the gown again.

There are no future grades you can attain,
no graduation gown for you to wear.
Stuff happens, someone says, then we complain.

Those who loved you endure the constant pain
of finding you beyond the range of prayer.
The gun shall shred the blood-stained gown again.
Stuff happens. Stuff will happen. We’ll complain.

from Poets Respond


Conor Kelly: “Reading reactions to last week’s mass murder in Oregon in NPR, in the Washington Post, and in other news media (then followed by more school shootings) is a depressing experience. I decided to focus, in this formal poem, on the students who died, rather than on the gun law arguments. I’ll let the reader decide whether ‘stuff happens’ or whether it is made to happen. Philosophy is for another day.” (web)

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