Richard Blanco: I’m Richard Blanco, and this is PoetryNow. When I first heard about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, my initial reaction was one of anger and dismay. When is this going to stop?
Seventeen suns rising in seventeen bedroom windows. Thirty-four eyes blooming open with the light of one more morning. Seventeen reflections in the bathroom mirror. Seventeen backpacks or briefcases stuffed with textbooks or lesson plans. Seventeen good mornings at kitchen breakfasts and seventeen goodbyes at front doors. Seventeen drives through palm-lined streets and miles of crammed highways to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at 5901 Pine Island Road. The first bell ringing-in one last school day on February fourteenth, 2018. Seventeen echoes of footsteps down hallways for five class periods: algebra, poetry, biology, art, history. Seventeen hands writing on whiteboards or taking notes at their desks until the first gunshot at 2:21pm. One AR-15 rifle in the hands of a nineteen year old mind turning hate for himself into hate for others, into one-hundred fifty bullets fired in six minutes through building number twelve. Seventeen dead carried down hallways they walked, past cases of trophies they won, flyers for clubs they belonged to, lockers they won’t open again. Seventeen Valentine’s Day dates broken and cards unopened. Seventeen bodies to identify, dozens of photo albums to page through and remember their lives. Seventeen caskets and burial garments to choose for them. Seventeen funerals to attend in twelve days. Seventeen graves dug and headstones placed—all marked with the same date of death. Seventeen names: Alyssa. Helena. Scott. Martin—seventeen absentees forever—Nicholas. Aaron. Jamie. Luke—seventeen closets to clear out—Christopher. Cara. Gina. Joaquin—seventeen empty beds—Alaina. Meadow. Alex. Carmen. Peter—seventeen reasons to rebel with the hope these will be the last seventeen to be taken by one of three-hundred-ninety-three-million guns in America.
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The idea of rebelling with hope was very inspired by the student survivors. They still had this ferocious hope. The issue might not get solved tomorrow, and the issue might not even get solved in my lifetime, but that doesn’t give us a pass.
Katie Klocksin: That was Richard Blanco and his poem “Seventeen Funerals.” I’m Katie Klocksin and this is PoetryNow, a production of The Poetry Foundation. For more about this series, go to poetryfoundation.org/poetrynow.