They Don't Let Us Have Gunshows Anymore
My 27 students threaded silently into the cafeteria,
all their soft heads waist high on me except for Kerry,
a big boy, a good boy--they were all good, except Clayton
who was bad, but his momma, a cop confided, was worse.
The assembly that day was about astronauts--it would give me
45 minutes to smoke in my car and listen to the a.m. radio.
Cool. Next to the empty space suit hung up at the front
of the room, the TV was on--a fire, something, some
place was on fire, really on fire. "What's on fire,
Miss Knox?" Chanel asked. The sounds was off--I didn't
know. The teachers looked at each other--no one knew.
Someone turned the sound up: the compound at Waco,
a week after Easter, they'd finally gone in, AFT/FBI
dudes in their black flack jackets. Liz Clappi and I'd
driven up there just days before. We'd bought t-shirts
and laughed at rednecks in pastel outfits coming from church
peering over the hill with binoculars. We'd stopped
at the tourist office and cracked jokes about where
could a girl get a gun in this town because we needed
a bunch, and fast, like real wise guys. No one was getting
out of there alive, that's for sure, a kid could tell you
that. One of the t-shirts said, "W.A.C.O. Weird Asshole
Come Out." The astronaut never showed, so we stayed
there in the cafeteria with the lights off for 45 minutes:
all the kids sitting Indian style in neat rows before a slack
space suit slung over a coat rack and fire whirling in the box.