What We Teach
As I prepared for a meeting,
reading a Whitman poem in a beige
cubicle in the teacher workroom,
I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing
a woman recounted the
active-shooter training she had
just returned from.
I tried to read
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves
but she shouted, “RUN!
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and
We don’t teach our kids
to fight or run. We teach
them to hide and die.
I have placed it in sight in my room
This is just the way it is
now. It’s like having tornado
drills. We have to be
ready—we have to teach
our kids to fight or run.
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love
We have to be ready—
they said at this one school shooting,
in a wide flat space
some six-year-old saw the
shooter pause, and he—
the kid—instead of hiding, this kid shouted
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near
RUN, and some other kids followed
him and they made it, they
survived. Like it or not,
we have to teach the kids
how to run or fight a shooter.”
I know very well I could not.
By Mitchell Nobis
Mitchell Nobis is a writer and K-12 teacher in Metro Detroit where he lives with his family. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Roanoke Review, No Contact, perhappened, 433, and others. His manuscript was a finalist for the 2020 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. He is a co-director of the Red Cedar Writing Project and hosts KickstART Farmington’s reading series. Find him at @MitchNobis or mitchnobis.com.