Collective Unrest


Thoughts & Prayers

January 23, 2019

Dear mother of solider number x,

I know you kissed your boy good night, his face soft and yielding,
woke up to a scraggly beard before you knew it, his age and yours
numbers charted against a wall, expected and unexpected in their
celerity, time a mirage —

I know you sent him off to school each day, his brown paper bag
crumpled, heaving an apple and his homemade sandwich, the
only way you could say I love you in a way he would let you,
skittering out of your hands, asserting his independence, I’m
almost grown, Mom

But not yet — you whispered prayers into the night, incantations
woven into air an evil eye to ward off the curses of existence,
you clasped your hands, held his when he let you, begged him
to look both ways before he crossed the street, to heed his curfew;
you were only trying to protect his small and fragile head, still
fresh and young,

precious cargo you ceded to the halls of education — he’ll be safe
there, you thought, until the news crept in and unmasked terrors
in its rooms, threats of bullying, and bullets, kids uncapping guns
into falling bodies, war of attrition, but that was so far off, surely
they couldn’t travel here?

I regret to inform you they can, and did; words do not do your
pain justice — we offer thoughts and prayers as if hollow words
can salve wounds that cut deeper than blood — you were worried
about so many things, tried so hard to keep this child safe, we
tried so hard to keep this child safe, but time caught up with us,
the country went rogue with hate and dumped their dead bodies
on school ground —

he wasn’t meant to be a solider though he died in a war waged for years
upon our youth, innocence ground down beneath the barrel of a gun,
our hallways run red in almost every corner now, and they keep saying
as God wills

but mean as guns will — meant to kill, they are weapons, not toys,
and now I wonder how can I say I am sorry for your loss in a way that
sounds more sincere, I can’t mouth the words anymore, my lips numb
from their repetition, and there is

blood on our hands — we mime Pontius Pilate, Lady Macbeth — out, out,
damned spot; we are the spot and no amount of leaded water can wash
that away, as Flint will tell you. How have we gotten here? I cannot bring
your son back, can only say,

I’m sorry,

which will never be enough, will never heal the scar that will mold your
heart’s disease — I cannot fix, no doctor can fix, and no medicine can
heal your pain, this unnecessary pain — I am only one person calling
my representatives,


for shame, for shame!

I’m sorry

will never be enough, there is nothing left for you to ever be enough,
dear mother of child solider number x,

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.



Marilee Goad is a queer writer who attended the University of Chicago and has work published or forthcoming in Ghost City Review, Peculiars Magazine, OUT/CAST, Bone and Ink Press, and rose quartz journal. You can follow her on twitter @_gracilis and find her website at

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