When I Hear That They Want To Let Teachers Carry Guns

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.

Lupe Mendez is a Poet/Educator/Activist, CantoMundo, Macondo & Poetry Incubator Fellow ,and co-founder of the Librotraficante Caravan. He works with Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say to promote poetry events, advocate for literacy/literature, and organize creative writing workshops that are open to the public. He is the founder of Tintero Projects, an organization that works with emerging Latinx writers and other writers of color within the Texas Gulf Coast Region, with Houston as its hub. He is a published writer and has worked as an educator in Houston, TX for the last 19 years. His most recent collection of poetry, WHY I AM LIKE TEQUILA is out now from Willow Books.