Today, she twirls in circles in her periwinkle dress,
a ribbon in her hair to celebrate this special day.
Her teacher will present her with an Honor Roll Award.
She’s 10 years old and jubilant.

Today a young man pulls the body armor tight around his chest.
Pats a vest of many pockets. Grips a long sleek gun. The patch of wild
verbena goes unnoticed at the entryway. Its innocent spring blooms
will not deter him from his plan.

He’s trying to remember the instructions having never held a gun before.
The salesman said, “For better aim, I recommend you nest the rifle
on your shoulder. Place your fingers so. The barrel is the tube that the bullet
travels through once the round is fired.”

Gunfire cleaves the peaceful morning. Air once filled with promise
crumbles into cracks, snaps, blasts that splinter tiny bones, dissolve futures,
cause a child to whimper, “please,” crouched beneath a table cradling
her award reaching for a friend who isn’t breathing any more.

Why will no one save her?
Why did no one stop him?
What he planned to do with an AK-15 weapon of war
no one questioned. Nothing got in his way.

Sue Ellen Lovejoy is a social activist and the president of a national company that provides 401(k) education to employees. Her poems have appeared in and received awards from Massachusetts State Poetry Contest, Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest, New Renaissance, New Millennium, Tiger’s Eye, Progenitor, and others.