12: Over In A Flash

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

Run away!

Please hurry!

Four corners to shield them, impenetrable, to pierce the tonsils of

kidnappers,

Russian armies,

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

Alive-

     Child-

           Now-

                  dead

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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