When Your Daughter Is Shot on Valentine’s Day

school shooting, carnations, poem, valentines day

Which parent stays home to meet your son

Which parent waits along the curb

among discarded carnations

and candy grams which parent stares

at classroom doors for any chance

she can utter later, “but for the grace

of god,” “what a tragedy,” “we feel so

lucky” which parent waits and

waits and

waits, the cut-out heart edge jagged on the door

to her room the words you etched the night before

“be mine” “I’m yours” “there is nothing unlovely

about you” which parent traces the paper, the tear

taped over

which parent presses her breath of life to a phone

to whisper the worst truth of love,

that it can be wrenched, ripped, torn, lost,


which parent will remember

to cancel the dinner reservation

the only thing left to do

from the life she knew this morning which parent

will this break which parent

will this turn to dynamite

who will choose the coffin dress

who will carry dried petals in their pockets

who will hold on, and hold on, and hold on

until all that’s left is faded paper hearts and dust

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

2 thoughts on “When Your Daughter Is Shot on Valentine’s Day

  1. This is so heartbreaking. These parents & siblings, have lost the life they once had. Everything has changed for them. May they have the strength that they need, to survive this loss. Mourning has spoken.


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