After putting our child to sleep, I hear gunshots –
quiet, quieter than fire alarms, fireworks, thunder,
quieter than sirens, music in the park, or backfiring cars.
Which is why I don’t believe it at first – pop pop pop pop pop pop.
I hear six, the app says four. You, our child, don’t wake.
I open the window. There are no sirens as the police pull up
in their cat-like cars, their soft paws and glistening machinery.
They close off both sides of 130th Street and pull out their flashlights,
searching for shells and victims, evidence and perpetrators.
The empty eyes of your school watch
as they put a little card next to the spent bullet
in front of the playground where you keep getting in trouble for fighting.
You’re three. I wonder if we’re doing the right thing.
The other day, you drew blood from Arlo on his cheek,
fighting over some toy train. When I picked you up from school,
you stood silently and wept as though you were suddenly much older.
I don’t know what you hear in your sleep, what blood
flows in your dreams. I don’t know what you’ve learned.
Monica Wendel is an associate professor of composition and creative writing at St. Thomas Aquinas College. She is the author of No Apocalypse (Georgetown Review Press, 2013) and the chapbooks English Kills (Autumn House Press, 2016), Pioneer (Thrush Press, 2014), and Call it a Window (Midwest Writing Center, 2012). She lives in New York City.