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Wednesday, December 22, 2021


by Amy Small-McKinney

The shootings never stopped during the coronavirus pandemic, they just became less public, researchers say. —The New York Times, December 1, 2021

Let’s say you are struggling to speak.
A six-year-old has been ensnared by a shooter
in the sights of his makeshift automatic.
Let’s say you don’t understand his language of righteousness.
You look for oxygen.
For the locust that grows nearly twenty-feet tall.
Let’s say his mind empties body disconnects
returns astonished by his own rage.
Let’s say you want to walk a path
through the black locusts that survive drought lousy soil
pollution sea spray light and shade its clusters of white or pink
fragrant as your own body once was.
Let’s say the shooter turns his back, decides not to kill.
Notice how the locust’s treetop becomes a bear holding its cub.
Now, a bird. How the Arctic tern lives longest
and travels in its lifetime
almost three times around the moon.
Let’s say you loved this path, following your beloved
onto another trail that looped past a waterfall then a stream
where human figures loomed above in the distance
and you could only guess if they held
guns or each other.

Amy Small-McKinney’s chapbook One Day I Am A Field written during Covid after her husband’s death, is forthcoming with Glass Lyre Press. For the 2020 virtual AWP, she co-moderated an interactive discussion, Writing Through Grief & Loss: The Intersection of Social and Personal Grief During Covid.  Her second full-length book of poems, Walking Towards Cranes, won the Kithara Book Prize (Glass Lyre Press, 2017. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, for example, American Poetry Review, Baltimore Review, Connotation Press, and SWWIM. She was the 2011 Montgomery County Poet Laureate, judged by poet Chris Bursk. Her poems have also been translated into Korean and Romanian.  Her book reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner and Matter. Small-McKinney resides in Philadelphia.