Featured Poem II • February 2016
When the Gunman Comes
Edith Hope Bishop
When the Gunman comes, I have a plan. I’ll throw mercy at his feet Like a trap, And he’ll weep, maybe, stunned by my gesture. We’ll fall down together among the broken things Of this world Where hate sleeps. When the Gunman comes, I have a plan. I’ll use my bulletproof laptop as a shield, And cowering beneath The coffeeshop table I’ll cry and pray As shots ricochet. I won’t post to facebook for a while. When the Gunman comes, Chris Hemsworth won’t be there. But if he were, the bullets would Rip through him too. Flesh is flesh, and he’s only an actor. I don’t know what it means That I imagine Lucy Lawless Might be capable of more. When the Gunman comes, It won’t make any sense. There won’t be explanations. There won’t be blame. There will only be suffering And loss and grief And eventual silence Of the kind that howls. When the Gunman comes, I won’t be brave. I’ll think about the story that said a woman Told a bank robber she loved him and forgave him And he stopped what he was doing. I’ll think about the boy who tackled the shooter At the college and lost his life. I’ll think about them, but I’ll only be frightened. I know I will. When the Gunman comes, I hope I’m alone. I hope we look at each other for a moment And that I understand something I can’t see now About my part in this mess. This saga. When the Gunman comes, It will be over soon. Outside, far away, the sky will stretch Wide over the sparkling sea. Birds will nest on the quiet rocks As fish move between the weeds. Peace will not let go— Calling softly to the dead.
Edith Hope Bishop is a novelist, volunteer, and mother in Seattle, Washington. She grew up in South Florida, studied English at Harvard, got her masters in Philosophy and Education at Columbia, and taught for several years in a Title I high school in Seattle. She is an active member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) and SCBWI. She was a finalist in the PNWA Literary Contest in 2013 and volunteers for Sirens Conference (a conference on women in fantasy literature). She can be found online at ehbishop.com and is most at home near, on, or in any body of salt water.
About “When the Gunman Comes,” she shared these thoughts: “I wrote this piece after learning about yet another mass shooting in the news, though my thoughts on the topic had been brewing for a long time. When I taught school, I lost multiple students to gun violence. I don’t know how many lock down drills I experienced. The worst came when I was present for a lockdown in my son’s preschool. It wasn’t a drill. There had been a shooting just down the road at the local college. When I feel helpless, I turn to poetry.”
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