They always show children’s school pictures on the news
after those children have died.
This creates such a dissonance in my mind
that I usually stop listening to the newscast and start thinking about this photo.
Children look so safe in school pictures
boxed in, left alone with nothing but time
four walls of infinite protection
behind their soft heads, a sheet of matte blue ocean, sky
miles of open space to run away
Four corners to shield them, impenetrable, to pierce the tonsils of
peanuts sprinkled on a birthday cake.
These photos are so familiar.
I’ve seen one of everyone I love.
They are routine, but death is not.
Because of this familiarity,
I have trouble accepting that no one can grab this
by the hand, pluck them from this photo, take them to safety.
After all, why can’t we go back? They were so safe once.
So safe, in fact, they got a school photo
carried it home
slid it from its paper envelope frame
showed it to a parent who,
“Oh, such a good one this year! I love you, I love you, my little bird,”
snuck the envelope from the trash
ripped the cellophane from the envelope just to hear it crinkle
watched TV eating melting ice cream before
going upstairs and closing their eyes
with a freshly laundered scalp.
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