Clement Park

Burned in the back of my head
is a chain link fence
between Columbine High School
and Clement Park
littered to the brim with love,

as if the flowers were at war
with the metal,

as if the photos were at war
with the wind.

Stuck to the fence are
fourteen names,

as if there is anyone around
to respond to them.

If I’d ever heard the word
“lockdown” before April 20th, 1999,
I don’t remember it.

I do remember my teacher defining it
to my fifth grade class,
locking the front and back door to our
classroom,

like a physical manifestation
of thoughts and prayers.

I remember learning the term
“school shooting.”

I remember learning the term,
“vigil.”

and I remember learning
what it looks like when white blood cells
rush in like one-thousand tealight candles
to attempt to heal a wound that resists
being closed.

We have all witnessed
the creation of a language of fear,
forced onto our tongues
and lodged in the back of our throats
like the itch of a chain link fence in the
wind.

It is not a language we can choose to forget.

It has taught us the word “troubled,”
it has taught us the word “youth,”
but these t’s are just borrowed
from the word “terror.”

There is no language to terror.

Only in the painfully slow fight
for the collective souls of all of us,
against a language
resistant to sharing its origin,

like a brutal wind
that comes to take
whenever it wants.


day #4 of #national poetry month | cover image: Ariel Don

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