We ask if it is real and the cell phones
say yes. Some students soothe themselves,
some panic. Write, I tell them. But
they write about Columbine, how they
came back from lunch and heard the news.
More texts come in: men with guns
two floors down, swat teams,
nine police cars. We plan what to do.
We say we will throw desks and bags.
I tell them our chances are good, so many
rooms in a building. We talk to someone
who struggles to breathe. We are
into Lamaze now to keep her
from shaking apart. Two students
turn the flimsy teacher desk over,
their only shield. One is angry because
her mother failed to text love,
so I kiss her head as I would kiss
the heads of my own grown children.
Then suddenly it is over: ROTC fake guns,
a simple mistake. No apologies.
Later, I visit my mother whose mind
loses everything, whose mind has turned
to lace. I hold her hand as if
there is nothing to say. We rock
in our chairs with the women. I don’t
tell her a thing she will forget.
Tami Haaland is the author of What Does Not Return, forthcoming in spring 2018, and two previous books of poetry: When We Wake in the Night and Breath in Every Room, winner of the Nicholas Roerich First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in High Desert Journal, Consequence, Ascent, The Ecopoetry Anthology and many other periodicals and anthologies. Haaland’s work has also been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily and American Life in Poetry. She has served as Montana's Poet Laureate and teaches at Montana State University Billings. Haaland writes, “In 2010 I was teaching a creative writing class when a lockdown occurred, and text messages from students' friends and parents confirmed that men with rifles had been sighted in our building. Though it eventually became clear the guns were not real, the incident caused much anxiety and panic.”