Volume 30, Number 1

Dear Clinical Board of the United States of Artillery

Lately, I’ve been nostalgic for crouching
under desks, dreaming of midday missile

drills, fire pageants, leaping from bus
backs to subterranean shelters plastered

with radiation trefoils my son mimics
with any three slices of pizza—where

have those days gone? Grown gushy
for Communist metaphor kitsch—radioactive

ants, poisonous triffids, a 400 foot mantis
tossing airplanes from the sky—anything

but today’s classroom corner dread, schools
stood on end, sliding children into scone

batter of limbs & nerves in the lockdown
dark where we are slasher flick fodder—

security guards jiggling doorknobs for jump
scares & we wonder how we strayed so

far from parents scanning our taut bassinet
breath, their thousand loads of laundry &

advice & why are we hiding during a lesson
on apostrophes, as in poems of address, as in

can anyone tell me what I am doing here
while my sons, too, hang like abandoned

coats in darkened closets across town? Last
week an armed lieutenant named Lent trained

our faculty in active shooter scenarios & I am
not Catholic but would gladly give up Lieutenant

Lent for a nation resolved to save its
suicides & perfectly sane fathers who snap, its failed

students & raging white boys with bowl haircuts
& endless shame & their targets, one & all. I know—

you don’t often diagnose nations but how much
sicker can we get—jammed into blackboards &

refusing to name our evil? The truth about every
gun that kills is a jumbled finger & I remember

my poetry professor saying the only reason
he wasn’t a murderer is he hadn’t killed no one

yet. Please—don’t blame parents, PS4s or
mental illness for a trigger’s arcade ease

its 38,000 erasures per year, its no-goodbye
theft, its austere chambers packed, like Congress

with power & cowardice. I will not make
the location of my keys curriculum—

not the nearest exit sign or doorway
not the correct loading of ammunition or

how to slide backpacks over my beautiful
students’ hearts to block bullets. No. This

American pedagogy is a pair of anti-rape
underwear—is prescribed trauma, empty

excuses & backwards logic—is a kit
of what ifs more likely to ignite

than diffuse these arsenals of
exquisite emotion we already are.

—Matt Pasca