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poetry by j matthew waters

can I graduate


we’ve been in line for years
learning lessons the hard way
snipers with rifles sitting yards away
picking us off one at a time

we really didn’t know
we were standing in line
we thought it was just a drill
like marching down hallways single file
or hunkering underneath desks
arms and hands covering our heads

but now here we are today
this bright beautiful saturday afternoon
an outside ceremony
price tag tassels on mortarboard caps
a lone rifleman undetected
somewhere in the crowd
randomly picking us off again
one graduate at a time




june two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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8 thoughts on “can I graduate

  1. Poignant. Well said.
    It’s unimaginable how this continues and becomes part of young people’s legacy. From my generation to yours, I apologize for the world we’ve passed to you.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this piece, Roxie. Since I graduated from high school back in 1980, I certainly concur with your sentiments.

      • Ah my mistake – but as a compliment – bc I read it as if it applies to you. I know better, and was whisked away.
        Great writing, and thanks for clarification.

      • No worries, Roxie, I often take the role of the narrator in many of poems. I’m glad you commented though on a subject which needs much much more discussion.

  2. Oh, very effective, John, but I pray this doesn’t happen at any ceremonies coming up. It hits home because our son is graduating from college on the 16th. Every shooting has been horribly tragic, but a graduation? Unimaginable. Great writing, my friend…

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