Paperweight

By Leah Brennan

I hold it in my hand like a baseball—
the glass apple paperweight
inscribed with my name.

I am trained
to scan for objects, to weaponize
the room, to lock the door
from the outside, dismantle
the workspace, reassign it
to the front line, a hedge
of student-chairs, impossibly small
desks attached to one side.

Hush and hide every 9th-grade body
in the narrow closet, their soft arms
around their knees, body memory
of a fetus, now born
and unimportant.
They have been instructed
to throw their books.
Their unfinished assignments
paper the old blue carpet,
and I trample over them.

This is called sheltering
in place.

We’ve been told to remain
silent, to listen to all the minutes
of our deaths. There is no language
to speak about the hazards, the deadly
weapon, the dimension
of a window.

I prepare a lie
to fool a terrorist.

There are no children here.

Tell me: What are the words
to your prayers?

 

About the Author

Leah Brennan teaches high school English in Pittsburgh, Pa. Her poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and French-English translations can be found in print and online.


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