A Thing That Happened

“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.