“Oh, we had an intruder alert,”
said my fourth grade daughter
when I asked how school was.

She said this
after the usual shoulder shrug and mumble.
My kindergarten daughter sang in, “Yeah,
we did.”

And I keep the car moving forward.
Even though it feels like a bird
just thwapped against a window in my chest
and this car should stop

Over the intercom, the same silver strainers in the ceilings as the school I went to a long
time ago,
a voice will say, “Mr. Snow, please come to the office,”
and what is expected

is that the teacher will sharply walk to the door
and lock it, that every student in the room
will hide, will be unseeable from the block of glass targeted above the doorknob.

My fourth grader
says everyone tried to fit
in the prairie schooner the teacher and her husband built between the two bookcases,
but there wasn’t room so she tried to squeeze herself alone
behind the filing cabinet.

They tell me this
as no big thing.
They tell me this

like it’s line up, single file, quiet down,
hands to yourself, march outside.

They can’t say it
like I do now. They don’t think about it
like it’s a heartbreak

have no inclination to want to ask the NRA to give one actual moment of silence,
no inclination to know the name of the school secretary in Atlanta who
talked an AK-47 and a gym bag full of bullets
onto the floor, no inclination to think of grade school teachers
laying their bodies over students,
arms out,
lungs pulling in so hard
they could make their backs
as wide
as wings.

It’s my kindergartener.
It’s my fourth grader.

It’s another thing
that happened

Copyright © 2020 by Matt Mason. From I Have a Poem the Size of the Moon (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2020). Used with the permission of the poet.  

Out here, there’s a bowing even the trees are doing.
                 Winter’s icy hand at the back of all of us.
Black bark, slick yellow leaves, a kind of stillness that feels
so mute it’s almost in another year.

I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying.

We point out the stars that make Orion as we take out
       the trash, the rolling containers a song of suburban thunder.

It’s almost romantic as we adjust the waxy blue
       recycling bin until you say, Man, we should really learn
some new constellations.

And it’s true. We keep forgetting about Antlia, Centaurus,
       Draco, Lacerta, Hydra, Lyra, Lynx.

But mostly we’re forgetting we’re dead stars too, my mouth is full
       of dust and I wish to reclaim the rising—

to lean in the spotlight of streetlight with you, toward
       what’s larger within us, toward how we were born.

Look, we are not unspectacular things.
       We’ve come this far, survived this much. What

would happen if we decided to survive more? To love harder?

What if we stood up with our synapses and flesh and said, No.
     No, to the rising tides.

Stood for the many mute mouths of the sea, of the land?

What would happen if we used our bodies to bargain

for the safety of others, for earth,
                 if we declared a clean night, if we stopped being terrified,

if we launched our demands into the sky, made ourselves so big
people could point to us with the arrows they make in their minds,

rolling their trash bins out, after all of this is over?

From The Carrying (Milkweed Editions, 2018) by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org.

When the doctor suggested surgery
and a brace for all my youngest years,
my parents scrambled to take me
to massage therapy, deep tissue work,
osteopathy, and soon my crooked spine
unspooled a bit, I could breathe again,
and move more in a body unclouded
by pain. My mom would tell me to sing
songs to her the whole forty-five minute
drive to Middle Two Rock Road and forty-
five minutes back from physical therapy.
She’d say, even my voice sounded unfettered
by my spine afterward. So I sang and sang,
because I thought she liked it. I never
asked her what she gave up to drive me,
or how her day was before this chore. Today,
at her age, I was driving myself home from yet
another spine appointment, singing along
to some maudlin but solid song on the radio,
and I saw a mom take her raincoat off
and give it to her young daughter when
a storm took over the afternoon. My god,
I thought, my whole life I’ve been under her
raincoat thinking it was somehow a marvel
that I never got wet.

From The Carrying (Milkweed Editions, 2018) by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org.

Being asked to move into time 
To places wishes and daydreams 
Into rivets and seams
Being asked to move back into categorical understandings of regrets
In order to fight against disintegration 
Carrying a placeholder for liminal spectrums
Reading somersaults into lecture
Move me, unmove me
place me unto y’all’s metaphoric understanding 
of the dreams which have yet been realized
Wish unto me, unfurl around, open
Gasp gasp gasp 
Cry out, there are ways of understanding 
that leave indelible marks onto membrane surfaces

We should all be so lucky to exist 
To not function
The eyes, cease to work
The throat struggles to open
The ears seek love remarks
The skin wrinkles 
to make space 
for the grandchildren we wish into the future
Au Revoir, my love: 
you have my best 
and my sword to cut through the meat of life. 
Hopefully, you have a better grip than me.
Hello long love, 
I seek you out 
amongst the fleshy cavernous walls where memory lies.

Copyright © 2022 by Jasmine Gibson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.