February 20, 2018

Lara Bozabalian


Do you remember, Nancy,
when we sat in the Creole restaurant
and glanced up at the television to see students running
with their hands in the air and photographs
of two young men?
Their angular faces. Trench coats.
We didn’t understand what was happening,
our brains felt like mush, it wasn’t the wine,
it was like being in a foreign country,
on the street corner, at a hospital,
struggling to understand or be heard.

This morning, on the way to work,
the radio announced another shooting.
The commentator said it was the 8th this year,
and I stretched back to that dinner we shared,
huddled in our booth, mouthing gumbo
and blackened alligator, feeling safely exotic,
friends at the end of a university adventure,
so much left before us,
even the tragedies we didn’t know about
—fractured hearts, burials—
were still adventures to be experienced.

But never this,
we never ran from classrooms
with our hands in the air, shoulder to shoulder,
screaming or crying and trying not to slip in the blood.
We never had pop pop pop trigger-stitched into dreams,
saw how buildings could be transformed into cages,
that we then had to walk through for years,
pretend that algebra mattered in,
obey in, eat in, drive by, graduate from.

Annamaria didn’t even pause when she heard the news.
I have done that, surely, Nancy, through some of the last 25.
Because the number snuck up on me,
like a birthday you gazed at from the kids table (so many candles),
and couldn’t, even in your wildest dreams,
imagine reaching.

from Poets Respond
February 20, 2018

[download audio]


Lara Bozabalian: “This poem was written on the morning after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, dictated into my phone as I sat in my car outside the high school I teach in. It had occurred to me that, since the first fateful and incomprehensible Columbine shooting, we, the public, had actually learned to digest these events as news. It struck me as a tragic metaphor for schooling.” (web)

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