You must at least understand chewing minty fresh gum to mask bad breath.
Crosses, candles, and teddy bears
Dropped like bombs around the flagpole.
Jocks and Goths zippered Five-Star binders at the two-minute warning bell
Right 25, Left 15, skip once, find tick 32
Kisses while leaning on lockers and spiky cleats traipsing dirt over brown and maroon glossy squares
Players caught every fly ball in the outfield’s fresh cut grass
In the flickofaswitch, the teacher’s red pen dropped.
The eye-liner-wearing dark shadows exchanged oscillating sprinklers for spitfire rounds of ammo.
Handsonthetriggers, 13 down, sirens, blood smeared across the tar.
I used to sleep next to the “1 Bleeding to Death”
Before he herded hundreds of boyfriends and brothers and best friends out of the cafeteria
To die in their place.
Before everyone saw his picture on the 5 o’clock news and stacked trays of lasagna in our fridge
Because he stepped in front of the barrel after they executed their slow-churned plan,
My husband stood a hero—long before the bullets that veiled our town black.
Standing on his old pitcher’s mound, I look up
And pray the candles burn all the bears and crosses.
Cover image by Igor Ovsyannykov.