All of my mistypings today are truer than the words I meant to type.  I tried to type “Seven of Swords,” viz. the Tarot card I pulled when trying to figure out some shape for this blog post to be in. I typed “seven of words.”

I want to write about school shootings. I wrote about them, coincidentally, on Tuesday, before this latest one happened. I type up what I wrote then. I try to type “fact.” I type “face” or “fire.” The facts slide and shift in time: I remember first and last names. I forget whole swaths of time, key details, faces until the moment I see them in a photograph.

Seven of Swords from The Vertigo Tarot

One:

Sixth period English class, April 20th, 1999. For the first of two times in my high school career, the TV comes on automatically, showing the news. Two assailants with guns have opened fire at Columbine High School. They have not yet been identified. The school is surrounded by police and mostly evacuated. The shooters are suspected to be dead. The kids in class react with something like a bemused disdain: there are a few mocking comments about footage of a boy who is in tears, looking for his girlfriend. We have been trained to take nothing seriously. We have been trained to think things on TV are not real. It is not real for me until I go home and find my mother crying.

 

Two:

In college I have this friend who went to Columbine. She’s a poet. A year after we meet, she tells me that she dyes her hair blonde because it is actually white. It turned white after the shooting, she says. All in one go. Her senior year she celebrates because it’s growing in blonde again, five full years after the shooting.

 

Three:

I do a lot of crying in AmeriCorps because it’s hard and I have a lot to process. Normally I cry on Friday nights. But I cry on a weekday morning in 2007 when I hear news of the crazed man who took six girls prisoner at Platte Canyon High School. Conifer High School, where I attended, is about halfway between Platte Canyon and Columbine.

 

Four:

At some point I have had the conversation with my brother: Statistically speaking, we are likely to be crazed mass shooters. We are white. We are intelligent. We have been bullied in the past. We are from Jefferson County, Colorado. He is male, so he’s rather more likely than me. But still. Odd to think of how much of the profile I fit. I was in speech and debate. I had arguments with teachers sometimes.

 

Five:

I wrote a longer piece at the Louisa Cafe last Tuesday. It has more of the layers, of the unresolvable memories, laid out like bones in a display case. It’s paleontology, what poet Nikky Finney refers to as the Palentology of Poetry. Tracking the timeline of your life with the timeline of your community with the timeline of your world. Patterns emerge and I don’t know what they mean.

Arapahoe High School is about forty-five minutes from Conifer High School.

 

Six:

The other time the news came on automatically during high school was in calculus class on the morning of September 11th, 2001.

 

Seven:

This is a poem from Jocelyn Heckler’s 2005 chapbook, “The Half-Lit Room”:

The Broom Closet

(in Columbine High School)
The door slams
and it is
too dark
in here.
I am inside
your trench coat
and feel
the lining
close me in.

You hold me tightly:
I listen
to heavy breathing
and feel
you turn cold steel,
hard
and clenched
like a gun barrel
I’ve been in here
for hours.

When your coat
finally opens and
I step into the long
stretch of hallway,
all I see
are shoes.
I wonder where
all the people
who belong
inside of them are.
And where are you?
And why can’t
I hear
you breathe?