On Facts, the ABCs, and Lands of the Lost

by Jen Schneider



something known to be true

an actual occurrence

something with actual existence


May 24, 2022 


27 school shootings this year. 

To Date 

119 school shootings in the U.S. 

Since 2018

More than 200 mass shootings in the U.S. 

This Year

To Date 

May 24th is the 144th day in the Gregorian Calendar 

200 > 144 

Guns made in the U.S. hit all-time highs in 2020

& have tripled since

There is no single definition of mass shooting

Dangers Defy Definition 

There was a time

There is no more time

It is far past time

To fill in the blanks  


There was a time when the space between letters like F and A described correctable errors. Miscalculations prime for revision. A forgotten step in a mathematical equation. A mismarked box or grid. Perhaps an overlooked color by number spot. A numerical plot. One easily solved and resolved. Of erasure dust and human-to-human trust. All eyes on me. 


There was a time when the distance between letters like F and A were tempered by Cs. Alongside Bs. Arbitrary measures of progress. Goals to strive for. Approximate rates of increase. Markers of merit. Not of production or stain to inherit.  There was a time when the letter C marked an average performance. One of regular days and mediocre plays. Games of wiffleball at sunset. And soft-serve ice cream cones at dusk. Of a reluctance to sleep before nine. And a penchant for greasy fries at all times. Of lessons in homophones. Strings of syllables, not bullets, turned words that sound alike — see and sea, be and bee, sun and son — but mean different things.  




a boy or man in relation to either or both of his parents

Where is my ____ 

as the sun sets in the West
and the Earth continues to spin

the sun also rises. Hemingway had a way with the pen. A hallmark of classroom curriculum. Tales with morals. Plots with twists. Happy endings. Amidst alternate universes. With monsters at the end of the book. And crayon boxes that talk. And hats that come back. And lands of the lost. Where live-action shows mix with stop-motion. And all dinosaurs are animated. And all animations make-believe.  

this is not that time. 


this is a time of monsters and wild things and box magazines and families in search of ____ 

and answers 

trapped in an alternate universe 

and time warp

inhabited by dynamite 

and men eating men 

a time of signals and signs and shootings

and quarrels and quibbles and quarantines

and numbers that do not lie 

facts on fire 





“a weapon 

incorporating a metal tube 

from which bullets, shells, or other missiles 

are propelled by explosive force”

“typically making a characteristic loud, sharp noise”

There was a time when gun and run were rhyming words in safe spaces. On mats of primary colors and ABCs. Where kindergarteners gathered to read and to write. In morning songs of bird calls and back-to-back cotton and flannel unity. All limbs locked. Of happy birthdays. And seasons. Of finger knitting, watercolor paint, and seasonless sidewalk chalk rainbows.

There was a time when the space between letters like C and T were filled with vowels both long and short and accompanying sounds. A for cat. Felines. O for cot. Naptime. U for cut. Grab a band-aid. Pet the feline. All eyes on me. When teachers taught children and children taught teachers. And active referred to voice and tense. And subjects doing something. Like blowing bubbles. And modeling clay. Petals and puppies. Daisies and daffodils. Suns that never cease to shine. And tossing frisbees for four-legged friends to fetch. Ready. Set. Go. 

There was a time when a no good, very bad, horrible day was the stuff of storytime – of alexander. and marcie crushes on charlie brown. and charlie brown hugs with snoopy. And the wild things mean bedtime with no supper. And harold could create the world he sought simply by drawing it — in hues of purple and moonlit tracks of childhood bliss. 


this is not that time

the land 

of lost

and tangled fate


in halls with no echo


                        it is far past time to 




                                    the guns


Number of guns made in the U.S. nearly tripled since 2000

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of Recollections, Invisible Ink, On Habits & Habitats, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups. She is the 2022-2023 Montgomery County (PA) Poet Laureate. 

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