Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022


by Suzette Bishop

I hear it from a two hours’ drive north,
From just below the scenic Texas Hill Country,
The scream of first getting the news
Their loved one was gunned down
Merged into one long, piercing, repeating sound,
Before a storm barrels southward,
Hail starting up slowly,
Then shaking the cathedral ceiling,
Our windows,
Animals running for cover.

We’ve driven through the small town,
Stopped to get gas,
Know a couple people who went to the junior college
On barrel racing scholarships,
Heard the grandson of someone from work survived.

A heart-stopped moment in class once
With the popping sound down the hall,
Two students, a veteran and FBI agent, meeting my eyes,
The veteran immediately slamming the door shut.
He always sat next to the door,
One leg jiggling, ready to escape.

Do you know what to do if there’s a shooter?
The agent asked me, asked the class.
Everybody nodded. 
The lectern and desks our only hope
Of keeping that door closed since there is no lock,
And I’m not given the key,
I am forced to tell them.

That time, it was just some backfiring or mechanical sound,
And we got back to what we were supposed to be doing,
Our hearts re-starting,
Still, I see us rocking the lectern from its moorings,
Pulling up the tape covering the wires to the computer,
Pushing and dragging it to the door,
The wires sparking, desks piled around it,
Some of us smashing desks into windows.

In one scenario, we get this done before
The shooter appears at our classroom on the second floor,
In some scenarios, the students jump two stories down,
Breaking bones, cut by glass, but alive,
In another scenario, the shooter enters at our end of the building
And sprints up the stairs, bypassing the first floor;
The veteran, some of his classmates
Sitting near him, try to keep the shooter out
By leaning hard against the door, but can’t,
The agent pulls out his concealed gun and shoots most times.

In many scenarios, the lectern is too heavy,
Too stuck, to move,
The desks too flimsy and small,
Their tabletop hinges squeaking loudly,
Drawing attend, wasting precious time.

In a few scenarios, the shooter is one of my students,
Already in the classroom,
Like the one who lovingly wrote poems about his gun,
The one having a meltdown and yelling at me
During the final,
Another ranting so loudly, another instructor looked in on us,
The one writing about hurting a classmate,
The one who mailed me a threatening letter,
Whoever left a knife at the lectern.

With the sound of hail ringing like deadbolt locks,
I use the knife to cut the wires.

Suzette Bishop has published three poetry books and two chapbooks, including her most recent chapbook Jaguar’s Book of the Dead. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies. In addition to teaching, she has given workshops for gifted children, senior citizens, writers on the US-Mexico border, at-risk youth, and for an afterschool arts program serving a rural Hispanic community. She lives with her husband and two cats.