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.

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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__.

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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,
 I yield.
 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
 Or guns.

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The Drawer

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

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Ringing Out

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
 only yesterday.

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