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Wednesday, November 15, 2017


by Sharon Olson

School had not started and students at Rancho Tehama Elementary were still in the playground when staffers first heard gunshots in the neighborhood Tuesday morning, said Richard Fitzpatrick, superintendent of the Corning Union Elementary School District. “The bell had not rang, roll had not been taken, when the shots were heard,” he said. Staffers immediately began to lock down the campus, rushing students into classrooms and under desks when the gunman came around the corner toward the school, Fitzpatrick said at a press conference Tuesday. The gunman crashed through the front gates of the school in a white pickup truck traveling at high speed, he said. Authorities say this was part of a larger rampage through the rural community in Northern California that left five dead and 10 wounded. The man came out of the truck with a semiautomatic rifle and ran into the center of the school’s quad and began firing at windows and walls as staffers, including the school’s custodian, rushed students into classrooms under gunfire. One student was shot in a classroom while under a desk, Fitzpatrick said. That student was said to be stable. —LA Times, November 14, 2017

The gaze from Sant’Eustachio Il Caffe
reveals a stag atop the nearby church,
a crucifix sprouting between its antlers.
Stirring my cappuccino I think of Hubertus,
as Eustace is called in Belgium,
the hunter who saw his vision of the crucifix
in the forest of the Ardennes,
and asked his would-be victim
what he might do.

The stag counseled good hunting,
trimming the ranks of the herd.
I think of the X’s spray-painted
onto the carcasses of “fallen” deer
in my neighborhood,
marked for hauling away.

Fallen perhaps over-used as a euphemism
for dead soldiers, as if they had merely
stumbled, breaking rank in procession
towards the enemy at Waterloo,
Khe Sanh, Kanduz.

In my America gun cases beckon,
designer bags hold personal revolvers,
video games tally the number killed
for the game player with his joy stick,
the one who flunked anger management
and blamed the schoolmates who mocked
and bullied him, who now focuses his aim
on the heads of children in the crosshairs.

Inside the church lie the bones of Sant’Eustachio.
Painted onto the dome above, the wings
of the Holy Spirit, flung wide.

Sharon Olson is a retired librarian, a graduate of Stanford, with an MLS from U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon. Her book The Long Night of Flying was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2006. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Off the Coast, String Poet, Arroyo Literary Review, The Curator, Adanna, Organs of Vision and Speech Magazine, The Midwest Quarterly, Edison Literary Review, California Quarterly, The Sand Hill Review, and Cider Press Review. Two of her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey where she is a member of the U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative, and since 2015 has been part of the Cool Women Poets critique and performance group, which gives readings in venues throughout New Jersey.