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A country at war with itself

IMG_6560On the day of the Colorado shootings, this poem poured out of me and on to my keyboard, up to my screen. So much more has happened since a movie theater full of people went under the siege of a gunman. Small children in classrooms were killed in Newtown, babies were shot by intruders, a young woman full of promise who was standing on a playground after school was killed in my own city.

Still, people and politicians protest the idea of disarming this country. When bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston marathon this afternoon -- an event with each mile dedicated to a victim of Newtown -- another part of my heart crumbled away. 


I don't want to be afraid to send my child to school

to watch him run toward the door, hair pushed back in the breeze

backpack swaying like a playground swing with each step

the 518-page chapter book hitting his slender hips as he goes 

up the stairs to sit in front of a window across from the cloak room

where he knows to hide, to burrow down in the corner in case of lockdown drill

or worse -- "this will never happen, but the information is good," I assure him

But how can we be sure?

I don't want to think of these things, envision these moments we cannot name without tears

I shake them from my thoughts and decidely replace them with images 

of children turning pages, raising hands, running laps, peering over each other to see a teacher explain a project

Little pieces of my heart crack and crumble at the exercise that has no lesson


I don't want to be afraid to run free

through the streets around my house as the sun sets and the corners gray at the edges

next to a man who won't stop staring from the treadmill next to me

along the dazzling lake with not another person in site until the skyscrapers a mile ahead

across a finish line I have been imagining all of my life.


I don't want to be afraid of the library, the movie theater, the quiet residential neighborhoods of my city.


I don't want my child to grow up in the reality of explosives and gunfire

I don't want him to think that fighting back against the NRA is just something we do every election cycle

or that background checks and blaming mental illness and single mothers and gangs and poverty screams NO loud enough

I don't want to agonize over playdates at friends' houses, worrying 

that their parents keep guns (sort of) locked away

I don't want to fear for an incident when I am not there to shield his body with my own

on an L platform or outside a party or playing basketball across the street or in music class

I don't want your children to feel this fear either

I don't want to recognize the deep-lined look of worry on another parents' face 

as they flash through the possibilities as I do

I don't want us connected by grief and missing pieces 

of our families and communities and hearts

Compassion like dust in the air

Fear like a chisel at the safest places where we live and breathe and learn


Why is this country at war with itself? 

And why are the people who are dying on the frontlines 

the babies, the vulnerable, the ones with arms outstretched saying yes to a world of good.


There is no white flag to raise 

Only more NO NO NOs

Enough. It's all enough

Who will stand with us to clear the fears and clasp what remains of our hearts?
Who will declare this war over? 

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