For Professor Lawrence Levine and the students
killed in the forty-fifth school shooting of 2015 in the U.S.
Our shadow slides across its face
like an invisible hand sealing an eye
then placing an old penny
over the blankness, copper
seeping out like an aura: since 1900
only the sixth time this has happened.
On Tuesday and Thursday
mornings, in a room that looks out
to a pastoral scene: green
paths, geese thrumming for acorns
beneath moss-maned oaks
I, too, have taught a writing class.
Have stood up to open a door.
Have stood up to say, this is a thesis:
We are human because we hope.
And this its warrant:
If something hopes, then that
something is human.
Have asked of students:
be vulnerable, take risks, share.
And told them: This may not
(I do not coddle them)
but together here we are safe.
Yet we know we’re not.
The unspoken assumption.
The hole in the logic, hole
in the heart: vulnerable.
But still they stood up, they shared
their light and will again and again
when we consider together:
how could this shadow not
arrive for eighteen more years
not turn to redness such light
that pools across our sky?
Stephen Siperstein is a poet, literary scholar, and environmental educator living in Eugene, Oregon. He is co-editor of the forthcoming volume, Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities (Routledge, 2016), and his poems have appeared most recently in ISLE, The Clearing, and Poecology. He is currently completing his PhD at the University of Oregon.