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poetry Escape Plans

Teacher and poet Anna Leigh Knowles is from Littleton, Colorado and knows a thing or two about guns and schools.


Escape Plans

By Anna Leigh Knowles

Every August, I scan each new classroom for windows I could break.

Which hallways are more accessible. Then maybe how, later on

in the semester, I’ll start to notice the impulses of my own students.

Which ones are at-risk. Which ones I believe could kill me.

The answer is all of them.  I don’t say I feel hunted or that I’ve been

ready for the worst.  My students catch me staring

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out the windows and I don’t tell them I’m looking for the thickest trees

for the widest width. Which ones could catch the most bullets.

How I imagine flipping up all the tables and chairs. What objects,

if any, are available for a blockade. There are days I can’t leave

my office when I have to. I force myself into the classroom anyway.

Take my chances. Students run in the halls and I freeze. Keys ready

after class, I can’t open doors fast enough. Every day is a protest

against someone who wants me dead. These bookshelves are my best

buffer. But I wouldn’t upturn my desk, wouldn’t make objects

into a shield or shell because that would be a mistake. I’ve thought

of everything. It’s a long drop down, but I would jump.

Anna Leigh Knowles is from Littleton, Colorado. She received an MFA from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and a BA from University of Colorado-Denver. Her work can be seen in Blackbird, Salt Hill (finalist for the Philip Booth Poetry Prize), Pleiades, Tin House online, Indiana Review, The Missouri Review online, storySouth, RHINO, Memorious, Poetry Northwest, Sou'wester and Thrush Poetry Journal. She received scholarships from the Bear River Writer's Conference, New Harmony Writer's Workshop, the San Miguel de Allende Writers' Conference, a Female Leadership Residency at Omega Institution, and two honorable mentions from the Academy of American Poets. She has worked as an assistant editor for Copper Nickel and Crab Orchard Review. She currently lives and teaches in Quito.