My parents grew up in Washington, DC my aunts, uncles. My sisters My brother. This poem will sing to them as they recognize something in the rudeness of the opening two lines: a metal detector with a high school. Madness follows death. By the end of the poem, when Joel Dias-Porter closes his folder of poems of nature and decides in the poem whether the poem cannot be cured, you realize that he has drawn a modern portrait. “Pistols” reminds readers of “pistols”, reminding us that there is not beauty after a gunshot, but silence. Selected by Reginald Dwayne Bates
By Joel Dias-Porter
I go through the metal detector,
Inside the front doors of Cardozo High,
With Xerox poems and a lesson plan
To introduce his students to wild iris.
After signing my name in the visitors log,
I got tied up with footsteps.
Things outside the classroom are very quiet
And Mr. Bruno (who writes Puerto Rican and poetry)
It takes ten minutes to answer the door.
He has a student snapshot in his hand.
One of our children was shot last night,
Remember maurice? Maurice Caldwell.
He did not come to school much.
The Crisis Response Team has children in a circle,
And I never saw them sitting quietly.
Every computer in the class is dead.
Maurice is taped to a drawing board,
Under it is a bouquet of pinned cards,
Keisha (who writes funny poems in class)
Maurice will help him with mathematics,
He liked her but never told her.
Says the trouble woman It’s okay to cry
Kesha says that she was shedding tears.
Mr. Bruno tells me Someone called him
From Buick parked on Thomas Place NW.
When he went up, they fired three times.
I freeze. He is half a block away from my house.
There are four firecrackers on that block
And I never go down that street.
I wonder why he approached the car,
Was that a crack or a weed?
Or he recognized the friend and smiled
Before surprise blossomed on his face
And the truth lies in his flesh.
His face flashed before I got irritated,
I see him riding with Hanif,
His hair came back in a ponytail.
He wrote a poem throughout this semester,
Rap a fight between cartoon characters.
Mr. Bruno asks if I still want to teach.
I open my folder of nature poems,
Then close the folder and slip on a chair.
Can Upma seal a bullet wound?
Which student can protect these pistols,
Where is it natural to never see seventeen?
Reginald Dwayne Bates Is a poet and a lawyer. He created the Million Book Project, an initiative to curate and install micro-libraries in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poems, “Falon,” explores the North-East experience. In 2019, he won a National Magazine Award in Essay and Criticism for his article in The Times magazine, covering his journey from Kishore Karjkar to aspiring lawyer. Joel Dias-Porter A poet based in Atlantic City, NJ he edited the anthology “The Black Rooster Social In” and featured his poem in the anthology “Bomb Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam,” “Catch” has gone. Agni !!!: A Cross-Generic Anthology of Contemporary African-American Poetry and ” Bullets in the Bells: Poets and Civilians Respond to Gun Violence ”. ”
Illustration by RO Blackman