Poetry: Sarah Duncan’s “Umpqua”

Sarah Duncan


*For those killed by Chris Harper-Mercer
at Umpqua Community College


The school is closed. The school is open to
bodies, warm and laughing. The school is
only open to ghosts. There are 10 ghosts 9
wounded, 10 dead 320 million
warm, wounded. The gun is cold
and apologetic. The gun is warm
and laughing in cold hands, white boy
hands in a casket, in a backseat under
a siren, this boy. And everyone else
nodding forward, flung with hit, 18 fought
lead. 10 lungs failed. 10 found
a crescendo, hiccupped
and spit their names on the walls and lived,
died instantly. 10 died
thinking of the faces of others. 9 died
thinking of the face of the boy. 1 died
hating the praying nation hates
the boy, loves. The boy
is dead, walking. The boy is always
in cuffs, in the courtroom, he
is on TV and the floor of the classroom, the
school is only open to ghosts. The gun is
underneath the boy’s bed, unloaded. The
gun is in the shop, unbought, still
hooked to the wall. The gun is warm
in cold hands, metal whispering near
the small of a back, of a ghost, the gun is
on time for the first bell, the school is
open to bodies, 10.

Sarah Duncan currently lives in Laramie, Wyoming, where she’s getting her MFA in creative writing. She is a queer multidisciplinary writer, performer, educator, troublemaker, and local community organizer as well as a member of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) Wyoming and Laramie for Black Lives. Her poetry has been published by Pelorus Press, Ghost House Review, nin poetry, Souvenir Lit Journal, Us for President, and the anthology States of the Union (forthcoming). Her plays have been produced by Sanguine Theatre Company in NYC.

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