Addition and Subtraction, for the Sandy Hook First-graders

Two Rooms full of soft, warm bodies
asking questions, learning
addition and subtraction,
having to face a whole hurricane
without their parents.

Did you see the line of children leaving
the school, hands to shoulders
as they’d been told?
Did you think the terrible thought:
We should’ve taught them to scatter and squat
like marines in a battle
else he’d pick them off back to front
the way hunters cull a line of ducks

I don’t want to be thinking this.
I don’t want to crawl into bed either.
I want to raise my hand and ask
good questions, like
Are they together?
Is there a heaven?
Have the tulips bloomed there too?
Do they find pretty stones there and little feathers
that they return calling O cherub, Mrs. cherub
you dropped your feather because
do they love the bubbles in that word
cherub?

The word clip, in contrast, has
quick metal and theft in it but it’s not right
late night radio says: clips just
hold and feed (I don’t wanna see this)
hold and feed
bullets into a magazine. Magazine
is the correct term. Saying clip in fact is proof
you don’t know what you’re talking about.

I don’t know what I’m talking about.
So I better add and subtract
until I get the right answer, like

11 days till Christmas
+ 2 more days of Hanukkah
= about 101 packages
someone had to deal with.
Minus 3 to 11 bullets per body–but
now we’re on to multiplication
and they never made it on to
multiplication, did they? Like

5 fingers
x 40 hands
x all the parents grandparents aunts and uncles
who once traced each tiny finger
as if it were an indivisible, indelible-ink miracle
= oh . . . about a Bazillion!

Now times that by 4 —
for the four teachers who went
with them
divided by 3 — the 3 guns that came
with him
multiplied by 2 — the principal, the school psychologist
divided by 1
mother
teaching a son
to take aim and fire,
never thinking hurricane
never dividing number of bullets in a magazine
by the number in a line of cherubim leaving
us
with the zero of a gun muzzle,
heart silencer on

and zero times any number
(as they would have learned
later) always equals – we need to see this – zero