The Bookshelf In My Room: A Poem on School Shootings, By a Teacher

The Bookshelf in My Room
By Christian Curet

I have a bookshelf in my class
Filled with long-forgotten anthologies
Collections of wisdom from writers
All over the world, but
Mostly America.

This bookshelf rests by the door
Waiting to serve its current purpose,
No longer a repository of knowledge
That anyone wants to read.
It waits to be called into action,
To give its life for mine 
And all of my students. American, 
Dominican, Native, African and "Other."

This bookshelf is there to answer 
The call, the one that says 
There is a shooter.
It can be wheeled and 
locked into place
In less than ten seconds
In front of a door that will be 
secured with an old length of firehose. 
Remnants from another fabled 
American Institution.

Those books on that shelf in my class,
Those long forgotten anthologies,
Can stop a bullet. Or a whole clip.
Or five. I know, because I took one
Just like it and shot it. 
I emptied a whole clip into
The words and thoughts of dozens
Of dead white men.

Winchesters came to rest next 
To Whitman and Hemingway.
The irony did not escape me, but I stopped 
Counting the levels the symbolism 
Worked on when the chamber was empty.
Each round found its way into 
The heart of the matter 
Made in the USA.

But ultimately, I know, given enough time, 
A shooter could blow apart my 
Carefully planned defenses
Like Leaves of Grass before
A Tempest. That if it came down
To it, were a shooter to spend that much time
Trying to get to me, or my class,
It would give others time, 
To run.
To escape.
Hands above heads,
Running
Toward the wailing sirens of parents
Restrained by yellow tape.
Running
Into the idling vans and hands of police,
Hoping not to get shot
Full of holes, like
The American Dream.
Like in all those books.


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