THE DAY AFTER or FIGURING OUT HOW TO TALK TO MY STUDENTS ABOUT THE UCC SHOOTING

Sometimes we say, “This tragedy, it happened far away.
I don’t know what to do. I’m concerned but I’m just dangling in space.”
A poem can lead you through that,
and it is made of action
because you’re giving your whole life to it in that moment.

–Juan Felipe Herrera

Tell them you are not yourself today                          Tell them what happened        some don’t hang on the news like you every violent and bloody report    another potential lesson in empathy   in the pain of pushing yourself to think about bodies that are not your own                Tell them today was the first day you were afraid     to come to school            how you felt fear creep in like a birth  like a parenthood    Tell them you took note of your friends online                 and everyone asking how do I talk                                      to my students about this    because you are all teachers now                          young and full of desire
to be the teachers you needed            when you were younger             Tell them about your colleague      who  let himself  want    just for a moment                  his own gun tucked away to protect his students       to be ready                              Tell them you can never be ready                   and how your friend stood at the front     of his classroom   to reflect on               empty desks   Tell them about the email from your alma mater         instructing you      to throw objects    when this happens again  Tell them you wish you knew more            about the victims  how much you want to speak eloquently about their lives       and how your vocal cords       feel anchored        to your heart    when you share                                                    the numbers when forty-five          feels much denser              than forty-five and how heavy the guilt is for only now taking notice  because you                    and your partner    once daydreamed    of buying a home    in Roseburg    and of teaching  in Roseburg
Tell them         our thoughts    and prayers are not             enough
Tell them         I don’t want         to be afraid  to come to school         I don’t want you                     to be afraid                   to come to school Tell them  about the poem that’s turning             in your gut  how paralyzed you feel                                  it’s all you can offer

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