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poetry Guns ’n’ Roses

“I want to say their names,” says California poet Patrick Daly about children killed in the classroom, not as balm, but to stress our “obstinate coming back…the relentless heart.”

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Guns ’N’ Roses

By Patrick Daly

I want to say to say their names as the mothers and fathers must have, and the two

spouses,

an ordinary goodnight that last long spring evening—

I want to say all their names but I will choose one (we all choose somehow—

even a crazy child with a rapid-fire rifle chose)

I choose Layla Salazar

who kept finishing first in the field-day races

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and is holding up blue ribbons for the photo

taken at lunch, a French fry or a piece of chicken not yet chewed

tucked tactfully in her cheek, making awkward work of the camera-smile—

She’s got a smile that it seems to me

Reminds me of childhood memories.

I want to keep thinking of her with her dad Vinnie in the car on the way to

school

“jamming to Sweet Child O’ Mine”—

where everything was fresh as the bright blue sky.

I’m too far away to add flowers to the pile in the square

or lay them on the grave of Vinnie’s little girl,

but I’m sending, in this poem, a California poppy I found yesterday in the sidewalk

burst up through the paving, fronds and orange blooms rolling in the breeze.

Someone may step on it soon. So I don’t mean hope

and I don’t presume balm or ease, but I want to offer something about freshness,

how it keeps coming up and getting trampled on and coming up somewhere else

though in the jaws of such pain you can’t tell which is worse,

the trampling or the obstinate coming back

of the delicate rugged green tendrils,

the unstoppable bullet or the relentless heart.

For the past decade Patrick Daly has been working for a software start-ups, writing poetry on his lunch hours. His collection Grief and Horses was published by Broadstone Press in November 2021.His poem Words was a 2015 poem of the year in the New Statesman (London) and he has published in many other magazines and e-zines, including Portside, Ekphrasis, and The Sand Hill Review. Poems of his have appeared recently in the anthologies Extreme Sonnets, The Place that Inhabits Us, A Bird Black as the Sun, Transfer One Hundredth Edition, and America, We Call Your Name. His poem Tiananmen Square received honorable mention in the Pushcart Prizes, and his poem Chosen is a current nominee. His chapbook Playing with Fire won the Abby Niebauer Memorial Prize.