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Barbara, Marian and The Elder – A Poem

Author Nick Sweet picks at the scab of one of the hot button issues of our time.

In a one room Amish schoolhouse, after recess bell had rung
Stood ten scared, hostage schoolgirls and a sad man with a gun

He lined them by the blackboard, all quivering with fear
Then screamed into his cell phone, “Get all cops out of here,

If they don’t leave, the killing starts,” patrol cars kept arriving
Barbara faced her captor, with slim hopes of surviving

“Roseanna’s only six” she said, “Naomi just turned seven,
That’s the age of Mary Liz, but sir, I am eleven,

My life has been much fuller,” she made her fervent plea,
“If there’s to be a shooting, let it start with me.”

Her sister interrupted, “I’m older than the rest,
I’ve had a rich and blessed life,” Marian professed,

This enraged the gunman, in no mood to converse
But Marian persisted, “Please, sir, shoot me first.”

Regrettably, she got her wish: the first of five who died
The others: badly wounded, the man chose suicide

“Bullet holes were everywhere,” the sheriff said, aghast,
“Every desk and every chair, awash in blood and glass.”

A newsman saw an elder who was stoic but heartsick
“You lost five precious souls,” he said, the elder answered “six”

The reporter was astonished, he asked his solemn source
“How can you forgive someone who never showed remorse?”

“Charley was our milkman,” the elder softly said,
“It’s not our place to judge him or speak ill of the dead,

“Bless Marian and the others who bravely gave their lives,
Bless Barbara and the injured, we’ll help them heal and thrive,

“We’ll reach out to the families of all who are deceased,
And Charley’s is included, forgiveness brings us peace,

“We’ll not think evil of this man nor of his kids and wife,
Letting go of grudges is the Amish way of life.”



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