The Most Popular Poetic Journalism of 2018
A look back on a the year that was, via the most-read poetry on Poets Reading the News, the world’s only newspaper written by poets.
Instructions for Operating a Firearm, Written for a Child
By Sonia Greenfield, published February 26, 2018
The clip is not a chip clip
or hair clip like the butterfly
in your bangs but a holder
for little missiles that fly very
fast from this hole here
called a barrel but not like
of monkeys or of fun these
guys take off their shiny
jackets & spin so hard they
pass through almost anything
so we don’t point the hole
at Mrs. Cole or Becky or
Javier or mom this lever
is called a safety this comma
is a trigger & the comma
won’t click until you flick
the safety switch so we
leave it alone unless we’re
pointing at a man’s pop
pop pop for making bodies
weep red remember
the boom is worse than
thunder but don’t cower
& we never peer down
the hole there’s no horseplay
you sign out your lender
from the principal & keep it
in your desk next to
pencil case, protractor,
& all the rest.
Stay Barricaded in Place
By Larry D. Thacker, published February 14, 2018
The news from a __________, ______,
school is live on ______________ now.
Multiple aerials cover the scene as students
file out, hands up, armed officers watching
like hawks. There are at least ________ students
reported injured now. An “active shooter”
remains in the school. The Channel ___ news
anchor, _______________, is doing all she can
to engage and inform viewers, reading _______
from __________. Update: The number
of injured has raised from between _____
to ______. There is no report yet of any killed.
Sheriff ________ reports that the shooter
remains at large. A reporter on scene
interviews a student and parent leaving:
“What did you see?” “I heard ____ shot(s).
___ of my friends said their friend was shot.”
This is the ______ school shooting of 20__.
I Took My Daughter to the Protest
By Paul T. Corrigan, published April 3, 2018
And protest she did,
Sitting on my shoulders, chanting
“Can we leave now?”
In my ear. Eight years old, she cares
Little for speeches or marches.
She’s no Emma González, no Naomi Walder.
What kind of father am I?
Did I not prepare her, tell her
Just the right amount about mass —
I mean, about the kids who —
I mean, about why we’re here,
Gathered outside city hall
With thousands of people
Holding handmade signs saying,
“Arms Are for Hugging,”
“I’m Tired of Being Afraid,”
“Enough Is Enough”?
My daughter has had enough, too,
And asks again to go.
I tell her it will matter to us later
That we were here.
Why should she care?
Instead, she counts dogs in the crowd,
Among them an old hound
Wearing “Bark-Land for Parkland”
And a brand new puppy snoring soundly.
She’s happy I buy her a protest pin.
It’s pink. It says “Fight Like a Girl.”
It’s a way to participate.
But what she wants right now
(What kind of feminist father am I?)
Is to get her nails done.
So after the official moment of silence,
We leave the city green,
Retrace two city streets,
Enter the salon we walked past earlier.
She sits in one chair,
I sit in the other.
Two women clip our nails,
Push back our cuticles.
Buff our plates.
My daughter picks a purple polish
With gold speckles,
Colors as vivid and vibrant
As the protests,
Young people prodding the old to change.
I choose a clear coating,
As clear as it has now become to me
That we must resist violence in all the ways,
That this, too, is politics,
This yielding, allowance
For what my little one does not know.
So fraught a form of love.
While marchers march outside,
Father and daughter
Get manicures together,
No one in the room waving about
Any gender roles
By Nicole Callihan, published May 19, 2018
Come to me in your bedclothes
In your shredding bedclothes
In this light that presses your bedclothes
The sound of breathing like bedclothes
Gone unwashed for days bedclothes
Gone unwashed for weeks bedclothes
On sheets hanging to dry beside bedclothes
I have stripped myself of my bedclothes
Have you seen my bedclothes
Did you hear about the children out of bedclothes
Just waking going to school leaving their bedclothes
On the floor washing their faces their bedclothes
Strewn with their siblings’ bedclothes
A blob of jelly on their bedclothes
Getting shot in the schoolyard of bedclothes
Under a sky of bedclothes
My heart wears bedclothes
And my brain is bedclothes
And I cried into my daughter’s bedclothes
At the news of the blood on the bedclothes
And all the unworn bedclothes
Of Texas & Florida & Connecticut bedclothes
The never worn again bedclothes
& Syria & Gaza & everyone in bedclothes
Everyone sleepy in bedclothes
Waking in bedclothes
Or once in bedclothes
No longer in bedclothes
The doe in the headlights wears bedclothes
The dove in my pocket is feathers of bedclothes
The dog’s bark birdsong all bedclothes
The gun in my stepfather’s drawer under bedclothes
In everybody’s stepfather’s drawer under bedclothes
My uncle smoking in bedclothes
Aunt crying mother lying children sighing in bedclothes
Being afraid to take off your bedclothes
To leave your home of bedclothes
And if I die before I wake I pray my bedclothes
Be taken with my soul my bedclothes
Folded in the drawer next to my girls’ bedclothes
Us all safe in the drawer of bedclothes
Folded more neatly than bedclothes
Can be folded safe as clean bedclothes
In a drawer of bedclothes
Which contains no guns only bedclothes
By Alexandra Donovan, published July 3, 2018
For Wendi Winters
For your four children and husband
this is not another shooting.
This is the day the world gave out
and you fell straight through it.
This is the day they would have said something,
anything, different, if they had known.
They’d have never let you leave the house.
You don’t know me and I’ve never met your family
in Annapolis. I’m writing from Colorado and still
I hear their silent wail traveling all this way
to the long grasses, the lonely church down the road
with its one small light and the lone cow standing in the river.
I hear nothing, which is to say I hear
a silence that no one can touch,
that touches everything,
a wordless ache rolling hot and slow
across the prairie,
across a nation that thinks freedom
sounds like this, this silence and not your words, ringing
as they did across the keyboard