The Day After Thousand Oaks 

By Ann Gustavson

At least it wasn’t in a school,
I think as I stand up and
Walk to the window in my classroom.

But how is this an okay thought?
At least.
How many more “at least” thoughts will I have to have?

I look out at the blue Connecticut sky
Trying to settle the soundtrack of my mind,
The news on the drive to work repeating inside.

13 more dead today:
Age 19 to 25 and a sheriff.
College night – country and western line dancing—
A bar stool thrown through a window to make an escape.

And a young graduate of Marjorie Douglas,
Now a spokesman,
Says gun control is a big concern for young voters.
He insists politicians should be listening.

And I am in my car listening,
At 44 years old, driving to meet my students,
Thinking, when will we do something,
So a 19-year-old isn’t required to be the anti-violence voice?

We are desperate.
Since urban and domestic violence didn’t,
We believe the children killing each other
Will finally affect change.

In the next breath, we find solace in
thinking the man who killed his children and pregnant wife
Will find retribution in a prison of inmates.
They won’t tolerate a child-killer.

And yet, we can’t come to some common consensus
for the children who kill children.
Where is the retribution here?
In our impotence, we tolerate these child-killers.

We propagate them.
We don’t punish those who can’t decide what to do to end the violence.
We throw our hands up and shoot down solutions.

We listen for 2 minutes to another story of killing.
We look for 2 seconds at another headline.
Then we go about our day,

And say things like,
“At least it wasn’t in a school.”
At least it wasn’t in a school.

About the Author

Ann Gustavson teaches composition at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut.  She is a member of the Common Read Committee that used Bullets into Bells in their classrooms.

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