War Zone

Like sardines, we crowd into the cafeteria and library.
Like sardines we huddle against the wall and each other
and we wait for the threat of heated violence to pass.

In the back study room by the DVDs,
I hold her in my arms; she is shaking
for fear of the flames. A moment ago,
we saw them on the hillside.

The glass pane rattles on the wall
as a helicopter’s blades churn overhead
hard enough for me to feel it in my chest.
It forces the question: what is happening outside the halls?
I stand to investigate. She wants me to stay,
and I want to comfort her, but I have to know.
As if my knowledge of the fire will help the situation.
I leave her huddled in my fuzzy gray blanket, and I walk.

Through the windows, I can see the lights
of fire trucks, cop cars, and helicopters.
Inside the windows, the sullen faces
and dead expressions of my peers.

In a crisis, there isn’t anything I can do
but sit down and fight my inner battle
against panic or fear or hopelessness
as I realize that I have no power
in the light of the all-consuming blaze.
What will my Dasani water bottle do
against hundred-foot-tall flames?

All that is left for me is the prayer
that Hell’s armies will spare us.