If poems were firearms
Another disenchanted youth loads his backpack
with weapons, the heavy oil stink of black metal
and copper clinging to his pink and sensitive fingers
like chalk dust and graphite from hand sharpened pencils.
He’s spent the night memorizing Dylan Thomas,
loading clips and carbines and lubricating slots and slides
with metaphor and simile, with adjective and verb,
the lasting impressions of a concrete image.
The bell sounds and he drops the weight from his shoulders,
crouches behind a line of plain gray lockers to unzip his bag,
no one paying attention, he’s just another student in another hall
in another school in another town of America,
where the kids form packs and cliques as easy as amino acids
build ladders in the blood, and he’s up, and he’s done thinking
about whether this is right or wrong, red or blue,
he puts a barrel to the forehead of a beautiful blonde
and bang, fills her brain full of Shakespearean sonnets.
The kids begin to shriek and scatter like seagulls chased from beaches,
bouncing off each other and into the walls, falling down,
trampled by sneakers and boot heels and twisted ankle soles,
as the shots echo in rapid succession, leaving their words
like bruises on the flesh. A boy whose only desire from the day
was to ask Maggie Mae to the dance, suddenly compares her face
to the sun, wants to tattoo his heart with rhyme, to leave verses
like postcards from his hormones inside her mailbox at night.
Another finds that his appetite for carving curse words into desks
is suddenly replaced with Gwendolyn Brooks’ “we real cool,”
a girl stops taking selfies and starts speaking in iambic pentameter,
another throws her phone into the toilet and jots down five lines
in a three-subject notebook that previously held only her name,
a teacher suddenly realizes he’s shown favoritism to white students
and has an entire chapbook of poems about racism in his head.
Slowly, the crowd loses its panic, as more and more students and faculty
hit by the power and ferocity of stanza and scheme
feel their lives take a sudden change, a nod toward beauty
gone too-long ignored, their faces slackening then glowing with grins,
one by one they realize they’ve allowed their lives to be consumed by lies,
to forego existence for mere reflections of selves in palms,
and they line up like believers after the pastor’s psalms, saying, “Me too. Me too.”