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Wednesday, June 15, 2022


by Susan Vespoli

Adam Peter Vespoli

I answer my phone after worrying all day
about my son, finding his 4:27 a.m. voicemail:
I’m freezing, two people beat me up, please help,

and my ex-husband mews like he is crying
around his words,    Adam    is    dead
and I wail like an animal in labor, NO NO NO

into the air above my 6-year-old 
granddaughter, who is crouched behind
the leather arm of a sofa. 

I hang up and pull her close to me, 
say over and over, it’s okay, it’s okay,
squeeze her so tight that she will later tell

people I hurt her.       I go outside to make calls
so she won’t hear me, but her face appears 
as my words,        The police shot him

leave my mouth and her eyes are wide 
as I point to the door, Go back inside,
and John will show me headlines

on his phone, say, It’s on the news
and I will call my sister, and I will call 
my friend from Parents of Addicted 

Loved Ones who I had called earlier
when I couldn’t reach Adam, 
when I was worried sick about him again

when I had said to her, This must be even
worse than death, this cycle of worry,
but I was so so so wrong about that.

Susan Vespoli writes from Phoenix, AZ.  Her son, a gentle person who struggled with addiction, was shot by a 25-year old policeman who shot someone else 11 months earlier. Gun violence upon gun violence leads to more gun violence. Every human life is precious, including the homeless addict sleeping on a city bus to stay warm, as my son was. Every bullet shot from a gun breaks more than the being it kills.

Editor's Note: Susan Vespoli’s poem "Before I Knew Adam Had Died" appeared in The New Verse News a week after the shooting. Adam also appeared here in many of Susan's poems, including "Chicken" and "Alex's Teeth" (Alex = code name for Adam).