by Ali McClain
the day after the baby is killed
by a gunshot wound to the chest
you still have to ride behind
death’s blood red breath.
you still have to picture
the baby in the car trying
to grab the bullet as if it were
a glossy sweet thing.
you do not want to imagine
the pitch of the baby’s wail.
you do not want to see the women
walking with bright white Save-A-Lot
bags wrapped around their wrists.
you do not want to see the man
at the RTA bus stop swatting at a bee.
you do not want to see
anyone trying to hurt anything.
you do not want to face
the red lights, the teddy bear memorials,
the trash, the raggedy strollers, the slow
slow walk of the low-down folks.
you do not want to ride by
the hand painted Casino Trip! sign
stapled high on a pole like a goal.
you do not want to hear the radio
scroll through tragedy and woe.
you hear the beginning of the word
Oregon and you know the next
stories will be about more shootings.
you think about the baby killed by the bullet.
Originally published in Belt (Fall 2016).
University & College Poetry Prizes Page