Listen to Podcast Interview with Grace Cavalieri on The Poet and the Poem

Middle School Gunman

Maybe by now,
the brains of the headline writers
are locked:
94 incidents, or 23 shootings per day,
or 1 shooting every 8 school days this year—
however it is counted, a kid with a gun at school
is news that doesn't seem like news,
even though
"you wouldn't think in a small town like here it could happen,"
and you understand the terror of the parents of all the students,
can feel their righteous relief now that it is over,
the gunman having killed himself after exchanging fire with police,
and doesn't that sound grown up and calculated?
You can picture him taking a shot and slipping behind a wall,
see the quick shallow breaths as he rests from his exertions,
hiding from the bullets that must be raining down on him,
until he realizes there is no getting out of this,
maybe he never intended to, maybe it was all leading up
to this moment of decision where he takes himself out,
and the article doesn't mention his parents,
whose son may have been cold and hard by age 13,
or innocent a year ago, or simply lost, or desperate.
We are unlikely to ever hear from them,
and when you can forget that there are parents,
you can forget that a 14-year-old boy
became a man
in the space of a headline.