Maine Voices: From under a desk, a silent student bears witness with a poem | #students | #parents


During one of the recent lockdown drills in our Maine middle school, one of my students wrote an amazing poem, while hiding under a table. The child is a poem faucet, very sensitive.

Lockdown drills are disturbing. That is the nature of the act – and it seems very much like an act in a badly written play.

Writing poetry is a quiet occupation, unlikely to be detected by the police officers jangling our classroom door knobs, to make sure we are efficiently locked down. So, I handed her the notebook and the pencil.
I’ve been a teacher for decades. It’s only recently that the specter of death by assault rifle has truly entered my consciousness. It’s so deep in it seems to live in my subconscious.

Periodically, it sends me the same dream (or nightmare): I am always in the same spot, up on the second floor landing where the lovely colorful mobile hangs. I see the murderer arrive. He – for it is always a he – has a Rambo-style gun. Instantly, without any hesitation at all, I vault over the parapet and land, neatly, upon this young person’s head (and it is always a young person).

I knock him out! I am a super hero! I save the day, I faint, I gulp for air. I almost die of a heart attack. Everyone hugs me. Everyone lives!

I am ridiculous.

This is not what would happen. While we have been taught, now, to fight back, I suspect I would never go beyond hiding my children and locking my door and worrying about anybody still stuck out in the hallway. I deeply resent and fear the circumstances that have me tossing and turning and dreaming this ludicrous dream.

But I do have hope.

We can do something about this problem. Most countries that even had this problem in the first place have done something. We can, too. Assault weapons ARE the problem, or at least a big part of it. Surely, we need more mental health awareness and interventions. (Arm us with more counselors, please!) But assault weaponry is so often the tool of the perpetrators.

Yes, The 2nd Amendment gives us a right to bear arms. I’m from a family of hunters; this makes some sense to me. But the notion that assault weapons are needed for personal protection is absurd. The common argument that, with these weapons, you’ll be able to fight back against a government gone rogue is beyond inane. The government has nukes, after all, and tanks, drones and fighter jets.

Should each household sport their own? No. We are a nation governed, we hope, by the rule of law.

Yet the craziness continues.

The poem that Anelise was writing under that table was about silence. It
started this way:

“Silence, like a blanket cast across the room
Silence, like a flower about to bloom.
Silence, with its ever watchful eyes.”

We cannot be silent anymore. The children are watching. The children are suffering. We teachers are not that happy either.

As I exit my beloved lifelong profession, I plead with our lawmakers, with our citizens: Make our schools safe for learning. Let us concentrate on the everyday work, with its sadnesses and triumphs, laughter and tears. Let us work for common sense solutions. Ban assault weapons now.

— Special to the Telegram


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