A knuckle pops in my throat the moment a student,
an 18 year old, asks me,
maestro, would you take a bullet for me?
and my classroom is an empty house as the words
leave his mouth. My solar plexus caves. I say
mijo, I decided that the moment I bubbled in the first
multiple-choice question in my certification exam,
eighteen years ago. I’ve been waiting for you to
ask this question.
I hope I pass this test.
Mr. Mendez has a class of 35 students in a temporary building facing the playground. The entrance to the playground is at the far corner. A man in a pea coat enters at the corner with a gun. An announcement breaks over the loud speaker “Mr. Red is in the building.” What should Mr. Mendez do?
A) tell all the children to hold their breaths, think of air, of floating around in the sunlight.
B) tell the kids to count the number of times they hear a footstep, a click, a bang, a body.
C) tell them: freeze, exactly as you are, grip this poem, a pulse crossing your temples.
D) turn out the lights, hide the children in the books they picked up that last library visit.
And someone says, “give the teachers guns”
I stumble and shatter into
slivers of voice box and wails.
Mi salon es una casa.
Do you want us to speak into an empty house?
When time comes, I will put all you
students in my pockets.
when one doesn’t fit, I will stitch
another pocket on, this one, dead
center on my heart, and hope that
if that’s the one that aims at me,
this is where we will be, that I’m taken as I am.
The gun I want is in the shape of a book, its pages,
the only shell casings I need covering my floor.