When I was 17, my biggest concern was wondering when I could jerk off next,
not thinking I’d have to convince jerk-offs
why my math teacher shouldn’t have to trade their ruler in for a gun.
When I was 17, I was too busy being 17 to think I’d have to act more mature than my 71 year old President.
When I was 17, I worried about finding a girl to wear my corsage,
not whether I’d have to leave flowers at a prom date’s funeral.
When I was 17, I spent my weekends in movie theaters and at the mall,
never imagining having to use my feet to march in the streets to save my life.
When I was 17, I thought about the future,
never faced with the sobering reality that 17 is the new life expectancy.
When I was 17, my school didn’t feel, or look, like a prison.
My classes weren’t being sized for safe rooms.
We weren’t selling bulletproof backpacks for babies to wear on the bus.
Or spending millions on programs to militarize the gym coach,
while there are no books in the library,
or doors on the bathroom stalls.
When I was 17, I didn’t have to watch my teachers take on the title of James Bond with no pay raise.
When I was 17, I didn’t have adults choosing an outdated right over my life,
or putting me down for speaking up after burying my friends.
A right they’ve allowed a lobby to distort for profit
built on the constant fear mongering of the Fox News generation.
A lobby that tells them their fellow Americans are the enemy,
that these weapons are the answer when the liberals come calling.
When I was 17, I didn’t wish for tyranny or authoritarianism, but at 33,
I want it so fucking bad, just so I can watch the chicken hawks do nothing,
because they’re the ones who voted it in.
At 33, I want to watch them stand there, fumbling with an arsenal too heavy to carry,
their plumbers crack hanging out, and beer gut poking through their mismatched camouflage.
At 33, I want to watch them rig their reading glasses to their scopes,
and keep their Cialis strapped to their waists
in place of grenades they’d never have the guts to throw anyway.
At 33, I want to watch them fail, miserably,
as they have to lower their weapons,
the moment they realize they’ve been duped
to point them at their neighbors.
When I was 17, I ignored what these kids aren’t
– that the most powerful weapons are not manufactured in a factory,
but are the voices they were born with,
and together those voices are louder and more ferocious than any magazine or bullet.
Any propaganda peddling lobbyist.
Any cancerous talking head on TV.
Any clueless administration or bought senator.
And any person that thinks more guns are the only answer to a child’s safety.
Most of all, at 33, I want to watch everyone doubt them, and then eat crow when they change the world.
17. An age. A number. A numbing.
Because in America,
17 is yesterday’s tally of dead school kids,
and tomorrow’s prediction of new graves.
T.J. McGowan is an Associate Producer for commercial and film by day and a wannabe poet/writer any other waking moment he can get. His debut collection of poetry “We Are Not One Thing” was released in September 2016, and can be found on Amazon for purchase. He is currently working on his debut fiction novel, as well as an upcoming poetry chapbook, “The Anatomy of Us: A Dissection”(release date TBD). Beyond that, you can catch his daily brain dumpings and free write poetry on Instagram @theeverydaybite.