“Uvalde Shooting Highlights Role of Doors in Security Plans”

—AP News headline

The teacher remembers pulling the door
closed. She thought the door
would lock because that door
is always supposed to lock. The door
failed to lock. They say when god closes a door
the shooter will fire through the door’s

windows. At first they said she left the door
open and the shooter got through the door.
She remembers she had opened the door
to carry in supplies, propping the door
open with a rock. But she closed the door
when she heard the shooter just outside the doors.

I ran back into the building. I still had the rock in the door.
So—I opened the door—
kicked the rock—and then locked the door.
Later, they verified she had closed the door
and the door
did not lock. Later, there will be a closed-door

inquiry at the state Capitol. It’s through the closed door
that all the men with guns will enter. The classroom doors
have windows above the knobs. The glass on one door
shatters from gunfire and a man walks through the door-
frame and fires more than 100 rounds. A thin blue door
connects one classroom to another. He shot the door,

a girl in the classroom tells the 911 dispatcher. Through the door
bullets graze two officers and they retreat farther from the door.
No other men with guns will go near the classroom door
for another forty minutes. They said they needed the door’s
key from the janitor. It remains unclear if they tried the door
to see if it was locked. The girl calls again and watches the door

and covers herself in her dead friend’s blood and this is how the door
between heaven and hell cracks open. The door-
way is a thin blue line. The men with guns unlock the door
and shoot the shooter who shoots back from the closet door-
frame. The governor orders all the schools to check their doors
each week and all the doors everywhere come unhinged and every door

is a door is a door is a door is a door
is a door is a door is a door is a door
is a door is a door is a door is a door.


Copyright © 2022 by Deborah Paredez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I turned to the sestina’s frenetic repetition and Gertrude Stein’s line, ‘Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,’ and the estrangement from resolution and language that both offer as a way to dwell within my grief and rage. The state has emptied words like ‘door’ and ‘security’ and ‘mental health’ and ‘thoughts and prayers’ of their meanings as relentlessly as an AR-15 empties its bullets. A door is a door. A gun is a gun.”
Deborah Paredez