The Last Heartbeats

It was Napalm bursts and raining Agent Orange,
That my daddy talked about with those men,
Men he was trying to get to unionize a steel mill.
Me, I went off to school, always a kiss.
Daddy smiled, I was safe at school.
It wasn’t Vietnam, after all
No war zone at school other
Than the tetherball courts
I dominated and the boys
I picked fights like a war hungry
Despot reigning her reign
It was a dingy day, a dingy town, a dingy school
Where bankruptcy, poverty and wealth circle
Like flies around dung, all buzzzzzing the buzz.
And politicians liked the place and the ministers
They could get money and claim to save souls.
The Pharmacist knows it’s harder
To buy Sudafed than buy a gun.
Lock up the high, those trying to escape
But don’t bother if it’s a gun they want
Step right up, step right up, step right up
And they do and they buy and buy and
This makes some corporations happy and
It makes the politicians feel like their protecting
Something, anything, a private right but,
They don’t read, ‘well-regulated militia’
A state right, not a personal right to
Stockpile those guns daddy used in Vietnam.
Does their Constitution obliterate ‘regulated’?
Look, we have a mental illness
Problem in this country, that’s
It. Get your Son,
It’s always the sons, to
The Shrink.
Then that barely adult learning how to adult,
Busted right in that school and took out…
No. I can’t say it. You see my ears are
Clogged with all the last heartbeats of
Those little beautiful flower babies,
Who blossomed like roses in their
Mothers bellies and cried “Hello”
To a nearly deaf world, and those
Parents all assumed, like my daddy
That surely school is the safe place
To be during the long day away from
I’ve stitched together all their hearts,
And there’s a hole in every one and
Those hearts will never be whole
Until arrogance turns to shame
On that Shining Hill and it too
Is dingy, on the streets, in the homes
In the hallowed halls of those brittle
Branches of government.
I’m still hearing heartbeats and trying
To figure out how to mend a child’s
Blasted heart that beats but is no

Risa Peris is a published author and poet and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She dreams of having a chicken sanctuary and a sloth as a walking partner. She is the Founder and Co-Contributor to The 200 Word Short Story. Read other articles by Risa.