Tick tock. Load. Shoot.
Death has been the hand that massages his shoulders
builds him up with cement and mortar and blood, fashions limbs,
but allows him to live, pushed under the ground in the Florida Sunshine.
Three times. Four.
Her mother brushed the tangles out of her hair in long, thick strokes, braided it and
tied it with a yellow bow. Her white canvas shoes are now a splotchy red
lying out to dry in the Florida Sunshine,
Sunshine, created by thousands of candles in the night
Rooms full of banned pages, because the only things we can agree to
ban in this country
The footsteps in the hallway sound like they are made by granite.
Education is not deciding whom to protect.
They spit back like hot pepper to the ones that stay,
to the ones that go,
We finally saw the faces of mothers with ash on their foreheads
and red paint on their lips
and in purple ghosts their eyes,
Seventeen, being the number of breaths they took in the final heat wave
of Florida Sunshine.
Raina Sparks was a junior at Cape Elizabeth High School when she wrote her poetry collection The First Rule of Dancing as part of our Young Emerging Authors program in 2018.