Susan Cohen

The Drill

I love having a daughter, grown.
We laugh the same staccato laugh.

She’s walking with me in winter sun, past plum trees 
whose early bloom survived a recent shock of hail, 
the morning not as warm as it looks.

She tugs up her collar, the only person I know
whose eardrums ache just like mine in wind.

Now she’s saying she’s been told: Don’t
unlock your classroom door, even if a child
bangs, terrified, and begs you to let her in.

She teaches her fifth graders to Run, Hide, 
Defend—the country’s common lesson plan,
the latest in education for mortality. 

She’s supposed to run with them, 
not hang back to shepherd slow ones,
not hover over any child-body 
to call out a name without a future.

If they’re locked down, she’s been told
to grab the red extinguisher, ready 
to squelch the fire in his eyes.
Then the boys can tackle him.

Her children practice their assignments:
Lower blinds. Stack chairs and desks 
and tables to build a barricade. 

We have calm voices, but the same 
angry country in our veins.

Now she stops to examine a fig tree in leaf, 
wondering out loud why it bears buds,
since the one next to it stands bare as bone.

It seems random—how only some will 
get the chance to open.