What do I do?


Written after Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, December 14, 2012

Inspired by the poet Maxine Kumin, “What you do”


Aurora, rosy-fingered dawn gave her name

to a town in Colorado

where a redhead opened fire

and filled their movie theater

with real-red-blood.


That was last year.


December afternoon, lowers itself to dusk

cellphone loose in my hand

Lake Carmel, mirror quiet

“Getting chilly,” I say to my childhood friend.


                 Bleep-bleep. Breaking News.

Mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Fairfield County, Connecticut


That’s 26 miles away!

My world drops.

shrivels— two dark-moon eyes, in a watery pear of lake.


Between shock-stabs she and I remember—

       atom bomb drills.  The dive under our wood-topped metal desk. 

       How we  cowered and clung together,

       pigtails wedged into the sharp corners. 

       It hurt to crawl out to a world

       about to fry.  Please, we whispered—2 little girls,

       please don’t let us die!


                        26 dead

                     20 children

                     6 grown-ups

                  details to follow

                   gunned to bits.


I speed dial my daughter in Virginia.

Blurt and squeal-sob the news.

Manage to advise,

Turn off NPR in the car

when you pick Hayden up from school.


Pulse my breath

       protect him.   Four year old laughing sunshine of my life.


                                What do I do?

Limp home

rant for pages in my notebook

squirm—a mass of blood-streak-sleep

night following night.


                            I plunge into my studio


guns—His Hers, Junior, Princess

fingers stiff, stuck into shooting clay

eye rims red

daylight fled, sink into my bed.


                                Weapons’ whisper

blood- barrels thrust. Blow

sweet-first-sucking-kiss of bullet

god-speed juicy babes.

       Strew those pink, brown babies,

       make them climb. Put them to sleep

       safe in ready-aim-fire-nests.


                  Spring Guns, Summer Guns, November guns



Fireplace upstairs

flames the small room


Like Betsy Ross, 

count, cut,

       7 red,

       6 white stripes,

       place and space rows—6/5, 6/5, 6/5, 6/5

       stars on a field of denim blue.


Stitch and glue

tear white sheets

scraps-rip.  Become hearts ripped

100 rounds a minute.

Fly and dance the pistols, the rifles the

Sakos, Sig-Sauers, Savages-

swift, above the stripes.


I pledge allegiance (under god), to the flag of the United States of America

my child-hand over my heart. 

each day, year

after year, I stood behind the wood-topped metal desk.

The needle pricks my finger.

                 America under gun loses her stars

We bleed.