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Photo courtesy of Kadir Celep


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

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