This is not a drill, the intercom blares.
It is the principal but not the principal.
It is a Code Red but not a drill.

It is a Wednesday afternoon,
but instead of leading us through the next song,
Mrs. Brown is locking the door. We were going

to pull out the xylophones if we had extra time.
We were going to sing happy birthday for Kyle
because Kyle is turning nine, but

This is a Code Red. And this is not a drill.

The blinds: down. The door: blocked. The lights: off.
And the minutes bleed into waiting, waiting—
until a flurry of all clear, lights on, chairs down, file out,

Mr. T. is here to lead us back to homeroom.

As we settle into plastic seats, Mr. T. stands
pale and silent before us. In a low voice, he tells us
he was at the front of the school with the principal.

There was a man wearing a trench coat and sunglasses.
The man was holding a gun. The man was not happy,
even though it’s Kyle’s happy birthday.

Keep an eye on him, the principal said, then hurried
into the office to announce the Code Red
that was not a drill. Mr. T. didn’t dare blink.

Alone, he stayed.

When I was five, I fell victim to
k-i-s-s-i-n-g songs; I thought I’d die
of humiliation. But people are
k-i-l-l-i-n-g children: my age, older, younger,
the adults they might have been.

But we raise our hands to remember—
the spread of red that Code Reds bring,
the sobs and the sting
and the wails
and the grief
and the shots
and the screams
we seek
an end to this.

Because America,
dear America,

By Kaitlyn Wang


Kaitlyn Wang is a high school senior from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a poetry reader for Polyphony H.S. and a poetry editor of Soundings, her school’s art and literary magazine. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and she is a California Arts Scholar.

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