written after the Las Vegas Shooting on Oct 1, 2017
I start the day not knowing much.
My children leave for school.
Their bright, ribboned voices
banner the chill air, and fade.
I turn on the news to get the facts.
I listen to the report and think,
At least it wasn’t a school.
I carefully do not picture my children
with a gunman in their school.
I fill the pan to boil the eggs.
I think of the word another
and the resignation that lives in those letters.
How words like legislation
and individual rights
are weighed beside one another.
The newscaster adds the word mass,
so now we call it a mass shooting.
They don’t tell me anything about the man
I think, At least he was white.
I don’t think, At least it was a man,
because I already knew that.
I turn the flame off and set the timer,
place bread in the toaster.
And then the numbers are updated.
Almost 500 people injured or killed.
One man with a gun.
I do not know if the shooter
is counted in that number.
I measure sugar and milk
by sight into my tea.
Today I will talk to my students
about when to use words that minimize.
My friend writes about responsible gun laws
and receives death threats.
The toaster chimes.
I want to write this poem,
but I fear who might read it.
I have children.
And I am a woman.
And my husband does not have the right
skin color. We are all targets.
I no longer think if
but when. My hands are shaking,
I salt my toast instead of my eggs.
I consider using a false name.
I wonder who will protect us,
who will be brave enough
to change? I do not
taste my mistake until
I’ve sat with my tea, egg
and toast. There is a day
waiting for me
and for now,
I must face it.
Lara Payne lives in Maryland. Once an archeologist, she earned her MFA from New York University. She has been a resident of the VCCA and a semi-finalist for the Nation/Discovery Award. She teaches writing at the college level, to veterans, and to small children. Most recently, her poetry has appeared in the online journal lines+stars, the Mom Egg Review, and Border Crossing.