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American Grace

                                    Valerie Wallace


Can we have a moment of silence, please,
for all the children who grew up to be dead,

who became examples of our sad yet generous
feelings when we bow our heads before a glimpse

of memory, before the laws named with their names.
Let us turn back before the stain is set,

before the bicycle is laid down in the field.
This country makes a refrain of Never again,

when what we really mean is, I hope this helps.
Ryan, get ready for school.

Lisa, here is the place at the table your mother set,
your father never reaching for the iron. Matthew,

that’s only a shirt tied to the barbed wire,
flapping in hot wind. And Emmett,

may summer vacation unfold around you
like a boy’s sweet, low whistle.


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