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Friday, February 17, 2023


by Laura Apol

I don’t start to cry until I see Hannah’s name and a quote from her
at 10:57 p.m. on the New York Times feed—which means at least 
this one’s alive, this last-semester student with the pink hair and the
big laugh, and I realize I’ve been holding my breath for hours, for
these hours of not-knowing. I keep looking at the same images: the
streets, the sidewalks, the doorways, the windows, the diagonals of
the museum turned blue and red, blue and red with lights from
ambulances-firetrucks-police. Every intersection closed, students
fleeing, huddling, wearing clothes they wear to class each day, and
I search the images, blurred by distance and dark, for faces I know.
The sounds of helicopters overhead are transferred through the
microphone of a reporter who seems at a loss loss loss for what to
say. Time and again this happens, beads on a broken rosary, but
this time it’s here—the place I’ve called home for twenty-five years.
These students are still children, and these are the buildings we’ve
met in, sidewalks we’ve walked, sometimes in celebration, sometimes 
in protest, sometimes in snow or rain, sometimes under star-bright 
skies, but never on a night like this. A colleague writes, Part of me 
is hoping that none of the deceased students were in my classes 
these past years. A selfish hope, indeed
 and while I’d like to disagree, 
she’s right. Of course it’s selfish; tell me, how can we not be selfish,
praying that the ones we love are safe—though no one’s safe
knowing that each silence, each not-answering is someone’s 
student, someone’s roommate, someone’s best friend, someone’s
child. How many more?

Author’s note: This poem was written in response to the first message that appeared on the MSU Rock and before the names of the students who were killed (Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser, Alexandria Verner) had been released.

Laura Apol is a faculty member at Michigan State University, where she teaches poetry, literature and women's studies. From 2019-2021 she served as the Lansing-area poet laureate.