opening fire

Sacrificial social issues scatter,
then rise again like mist
mirrored upon the tattered banks of now
reflecting the vast underbellies
of skirted straw dogs.


Raw over Sandy Hook,
remembering Aurora,
the media spins its guns,
opening fire on our right to bear arms.

Opening fire on victims
the scales of justice blindly allow
insanity as defense
and edge people out of jail free
attempting to rehabilitate them
to rid them of a desire to annihilate lives.

Opening fire on human dignity,
the dental hygienist,
with hands in my mouth,
curves me this ball, “You know,
Adam Lanza (the Sandy Hook shooter) had
Asperger’s Syndrome.
Those kids need a school of their own.
They shouldn’t be with our kids.”
She scrapes my teeth with stainless steel.
“We have one in our town, you know,
a kid with Asperger’s. He knows everything
about guns. It’s all he talks about.”
She shines my teeth with minty polish.
“We’ve got this girl, too.
Her brain grew too big for her head or something,
so they had to crack her skull open.
She’s nice and everything, but she wears a helmet.
She could go to that school, too.
We can consolidate these kids
from all the rural communities
and bus them to that school.
They could all be together.”

I close my eyes and keep my metaphorical mouth shout,
waiting until my literal mouth is free from her hands
before opening fire.

Outside, a bell tower chimes reminding me that holiness
is always peering just around the curtain’s edge.

Brenda Warren 2013


Process Notes:
I wrote the first stanza, then read it several times and mulled it over. Eventually, it lead me to the rest of the piece. I did try to educate my dental hygienist after the cleaning. She lives in a community about 45 miles out of our town. Her ideas may not change, but she listened and we had a respectful conversation. A little piece at a time… a little peace at a time.

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31 thoughts on “opening fire

  1. As others have commented there is always a group of people who become to ‘blame’..falling into many of those categories myself it is hard to speak out loud but there are other ways to is painfully slow..painful in itself..but even if you can’t change others views as a’blamed’ person you find a place to belong..that is immeasurable.. And in some ways changes the world..


  2. PS, it’s like those of us with mental disorders are getting the “blame” for society’s ills, along with gays and lesbians, undocumented immigrants, and women who want birth control. You ask me, the really mentally ill folks are those who are paranoid: “Obama’s coming to get your guns!” Rush Limbaugh.


  3. I’m not sure how you sat there and listened, held hostage to the hygenist’s work. You are (it goes without saying) infinitely more diplomatic than I. Riley (daughter) has Asperger’s, and when that hit the airwaves, I thought, “Oh, man, now she has that to deal with.” Truth is, Asperger’s should not (in my opinion) be put back on the Autism spectrum. “Aspies” are often high-functioning, artistic, shy people. Sure, the kid she’s talking about, who knows “everything” about guns, is typical, in that Aspies are linear thinkers. One subject, mastered, at a time. Riley went from forensics to Manga to drumming professionally at age 9 to art school. They are insecure souls. And no matter what, I greatly disagree with the media spin that Asperger’s had anything to do with it. He had much deeper problems, no doubt. The ones who commit mass murder are UNDIAGNOSED, if they are mentally ill at all. My two cents as a mental health consumer and advocate! Loads of food for thought here, Brenda, thanks. Amy


  4. You have the patience of a saint. I would have stopped her and told her how crass her opinions were and inappropriate when she was working. However that may have meant we wouldn’t have had such a telling post from you. If we can’t stand up for the weak we lose a bit of ourselves in the process. Great post.


  5. Gosh Brenda, you gave me a lot to digest. I love, love, love the first stanza. It made me think of the war in Afghanistan. Then comes Sandy Hook and the real thinking begins. The Asberger’s comment – now I understand a FB reference. i haven’t been watching the news so didn’t know. Sorry I haven’t visited in awhile. I’ve been doing research.


    • I’m glad you are busy, Cheryl. Stop by and work with us when you can. You are part of the Whirl. Your creativity is inspiring. It will be interesting to hear about the fruit of your research.


  6. Gosh Brenda, this is a powerful piece. I think you should send it out into the world…all over the world. I hoped all the way thru that this conversation was fiction but was horrified to read your process note. I’m glad you had a convo with the hygienist and I hope you’ve had an influence. Also, just figured out, thanks to Pamela, that there’s a Mr Linky on the site…duh…a year of participating and I never noticed…what am I like? 🙂


    • Thank you for your kind words, Veronica. I appreciate your comments. As far as you not noticing Mr. Linky. It shows how observant I am, eh? I’m glad you’re writing with us!


  7. Brenda, you know that thing about synchronicity? Last night, for the first time in many months, I went to dinner with all of my siblings and their spouses. The subject of Sandy Hook came up and clear lines were drawn on the basis for the need of healing, versus who is going to end up paying for that healing. It was a very telling conversation, to say the least. I give you kudos for using the words to speak out, and applause for doing it with genuine grace and awareness. Thank you,



  8. What a powerful important piece Brenda – I too am happy you kept your cool and were able to have a civilized conversation with this person although, like many others, I have a hard time understanding this mindset.

    It unfortunately gives me more insight into the “problems” of the ones with Asperger’s or mental illness, and their caregivers. When the stigma remains this strong or begins to develop into a confluence of misinformation and fear, it seems society is headed down a scary path.

    I didn’t get the impression that President Obama’s idea of better resources for addressing the needs of the mentally ill meant ostracising them, putting them on a bus and sending them all out somewhere to a school where they could all be together. I realize this is a person speaking out of ignorance and fear but wow – how scary is that?

    Okay – enough ranting from me.

    I really wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog earlier, reading and commenting; I know how hard you try to get around to everyone so appreciate it when you do (which is almost always – thank you so much.).


    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Sharon. I don’t know what drives people to think like this woman. Perhaps fear…. ? I appreciate your visits to my blog, too. We’ve got a nice community of writers here. 🙂


  9. I’m glad you wrote this, Brenda, but still puzzled as to how ANYONE can justify this “right to bear arms.” I’m also happy that you kept your cool and had a reasonable discussion with the misguided hygenist.


  10. I do like how you incorporated the cleaning along with the story, Brenda. Many people unfortunately don’t know much about autism and it is a shame. Well wordled story, my friend.



  11. Our house is divided on the right to possess guns, and the laws that are too weak to protect those that choose not to. Just because one has a difference of opinion makes neither right or wrong, but the hype and media play a shocking role in how safety from those who are different are perceived. I do like that you were able to have a peaceful conversation because education is paramount as a bridge over the great divide that is the presumed to be called ‘respect’.

    Your Wordle list again provided two verses from me. Thank you. Have a great week!


    • I’m divided on the right to keep guns, Jules. I go back and forth. Never, do I think should teachers be the gun keepers in schools. When that idea hit the media, oh my!

      Thanks for your commitment to the whirl. I’m glad to write with you each week. It’s fun. 🙂


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