This is Only a Drill

by Candice Kelsey

Today, we are ordered into total lockdown.
I tell my students to cluster away from the doors,
Avoid direct visibility of scope & crosshairs.

12-gauge semiautomatic shotguns, Glock 20s rarely miss.

Their assignments become locking doors, stacking
Desks in barricade, turning out lights.

I would gladly, without any hesitation, take
A spray of bullets for them, but I put aside my courage
For now. Instead, I take the red emergency folder:
Evacuation Procedures for Teachers.

The five-step mnemonic seems to mock us—

C: remain Calm
L: Listen for instructions
E: Evacuate the building in a quiet, orderly manner
A: Assemble in the designated area
R: Roll is taken

Today, before the drill began, these teens
Had been joyfully designing Sir Gawain's pentangle shield
As an exercise in close reading & creativity.

Now, the colored pencils scatter the tile floor like bullet casings.

My students are huddling closely
As we wait for the All-Clear announcement. I
Circulate the room struck by their Medieval shields:

The five joys of Mary, the five wounds of
Christ, the five tenets of the chivalric code.

I want to order them to stop. I want them to forge a real
Five-point shield to carry into the ether
Of battles they will face— terrible giants real
& supernatural, bent on slaughtering the innocent.

Portrait with Green Background

by Uee Jung

Candice Kelsey [she/her] is a poet, educator, and activist currently living in Augusta, Georgia. She serves as a creative writing mentor with PEN America’s Prison & Justice Writing Program; her work appears in Grub Street, Poet Lore, Lumiere Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and Slant among other journals. Recently, Candice was chosen as a finalist in Iowa Review’s Poetry Contest and Cutthroat’s Joy Harjo Poetry Prize. Her third book titled A Poet just released with Alien Buddha Press. Find her @candicekelsey1 and

Uee Jung is a tenth grader attending Seoul International School in Seoul, S. Korea. Her current artwork involves experimenting with color and figures.

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