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Say Their Names

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By Shelagh Shapiro, June 2020

Gathering on the State House lawn

Each day for a week in

Order to take a knee and

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Remember. Phones clutched, we

Group on the lawn and sidewalks, smiling behind masks, then

Embarrassed, unsure where to look. A

Feeble card table holds photographs with thick-printed names of the

Lost. Dead, not lost. Murdered, not dead. Lost is the speaker,

Overwhelmed into silence. Under a sparkling dome 

Young girls braid each other’s hair, kneeling

Despite summer-stiff grass, watched by Ceres

Beneath a uniform sky whose blue bears down.

Right before the timer starts, an

Escaped child darts away and laughs, while an

Ordinary breeze disturbs the pictures on the rickety table

No chatter once seconds tick, and

Now we count his final breathless moments. 

All in a huddle, we are a sea of white chagrin. We

Take a knee on hard ground for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, try not to shift, re-

Adjust, crack our joints in discomfort. Even the

Young ones quiet. All of us still,

Lower our heads and focus our eyes — squeezed shut —

On this, our small protest, because this is all we can think to do. There’s no

Rewind button on the spinning blur of our mistakes.

Shelagh Shapiro’s novel, “Shape of the Sky”, was published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont in September 2014 and was nominated by a bookseller for the debut Vermont Book Award that same year. shelaughswithoutus.com