Roll Call By Eija Sumner

Roll Call

Pasts constructed from the small information shared—
pink granite marking a baby’s life, twin angels
embrace her name. The couple bound together
in kerbed matte black. One partner already rests,
the patient ground waits to join them. Fresh roses
on the headstone— peach, a favorite color, perhaps.
Yellow ribbons and American flags, sun-dried flowers,
a note left from a lover in laminate.

There’s mystery in the family relationships, map
out surnames across generations, centuries of life,
wonder at the mystery of death.

Imagine the shock of a cemetery, cradling
stones with the same December 14th death date:
Charlotte, here.
Daniel, here.
Olivia, here.
Josephine, here.
Dylan, here.

The cadence of names carefully chosen
by parents, practiced for months in utero,
new on your lips, say them out loud:
Madeline, here.
Catherine, here.
Chase, here.
Jesse, here.
Ana, here.

Walk, from one headstone to the next,
hairs raised, feet slowing:
James, here.
Grace, here.
Emilie, here.
Jack, here.
Noah, here.

Say their names.

A nation complicit seventeen, fifty-nine, fifty, twenty-seven,
thirty-three, thirteen, twenty-six times over:

Say their names.

Who would
have bashfully raised their hand,
or jumped up waving an arm?
Who would have brought their own lunch,
or who planned on hot—tray held in small hands
moving through the line to sit with friends.
Who couldn’t wait for the crinkle of snow pants,
a new dress for the winter concert, a holiday break,
the new year just weeks away.

By Eija Sumner

A poem from Disarm: A Themed issue Responding to Mass Shootings in America


Eija Sumner is a writer and illustrator from the Inland Northwest. She is currently working on her MFA in writing for children and young adults at Hamline University.

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