Freedom, Grade One

The first things Ayden is taught
in school is there are a dozen
desks between his and the door
and the best route to take in a sprint

to the hall outside is serpentine,
making for a harder target,
and his shoelaces, if poorly tied,
could kill him as he runs, and the Uzi

the teacher wears on her hip is an
imprecise weapon, so he must dive
to the floor if she draws a bead on
an intruder, and the bullet-proof vest

his mother cinched him into before
he boarded the school bus is not really
bulletproof to armor-piercing ammo
and could snag on the window frame

were he to try to escape in that direction
and a little blood smeared on the forehead
might fool a shooter into moving on to
the next child and of course to pray,

pray hard, as he hides, for prayer is
the only weapon he will be armed with
until the fourth grade when his hands
will finally be large enough to handle

the elementary school version of
the Glock .22 issued along with his
schoolbooks, and after that, 

there’ll be no excuses. 

About the Poem

Ohio has streamlined the arming of teachers and school employees, leaving only the students without sidearms. For the moment.

About the Author

Tom Barlow is an Ohio writer of poetry, short stories, and novels. His work has appeared in journals including Trampoline, Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, Hobart, Tenemos, Redivider, The North Dakota Quarterly, The New York Quarterly, The Modern Poetry Quarterly, and many more. See more at

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