Empire of Light
In the silence of the evening we are
made and unmade and remade again.
Don’t you know in an hour we’ll all be dead?
And then the blackbird on the fence post
will have nothing to sing about, so we try
to give up little pieces of ourselves,
a necessary antidote to its hymn.
Bloody and blank, the minutes warped,
the numbers rattling around in place.
I didn’t know what an AR-15 was until
the day bullets tore through the glass
of an elementary school seventy miles
from my own, and for years I superimposed
the bodies onto the faces of the children
I would meet. When the clouds would shake,
my neighbors would look up and murmur
That’s old man Remington having his way
as I huddled in the yard deciphering
gunshot cracks from the Fourth of July.
Living here you get used to it, the costumed
militiamen firing rounds across cornfields
next to the house where Nathan Hale’s
sisters grew up. The kid next to you in class
who wants to bring in his father’s Beretta
for show-and-tell. AKM, Bushmaster XM15.
The words are thick and heavy in his child’s
mouth. Later, your friends will whisper to you
in the hallways: do you think? Really?
The woods are silent with the echo of the years.
In Florida, my classmate’s cousin is fleeing the
deaths of four she loves. In Newtown, the son of
a friend of a friend lies dead under a cover of snow.
Names light on lips, the inflection almost musical.
It’s an old lullaby, but it’s all we’ve ever known.
By Eliza Browning
A poem from Disarm: A Themed issue Responding to Mass Shootings in America
Eliza Browning is a seventeen-year-old high school senior from Connecticut. She is the editor-in-chief of her school literary magazine, Sidetrax, and the founder of the Janus Review, an online publication aimed at promoting diversity in the arts and amplifying the voices of high school and college students. Her work has been recognized by Hollins University and College Xpress.