Volume 32, Number 2

For Adam Toledo

Chicago, March 29, 2021

I could have taught you in seventh grade.
Before the first day of school, I would have worried
how to pronounce your last name—like the city in Ohio
or with a Spanish e? You might have preferred

a seat in the back, where you’d slump over your desk,
wanting me to know you were there under protest.
You might have liked some of the readings, though,
the ones where you recognized the people

who came and went on the page: stories of the kids
on Mango Street, Jacob’s poem about the King on the L
who insisted he throw down a sign. But Ed Hirsch, too,
the poem that turns an elaborate basketball play

into an elegy for his friend. Your own poem might chase
your deft moves down the pitch toward an inevitable
goal. You might have wanted another boy to sit with you.
I know you would have taken direction well

since you took the gun when the older guy, the shooter,
ran to escape the cops converging on your alley
with sirens and lights; since you dropped the gun
and held up your hands when the officer told you to,

right before the cop shot you straight in the chest.

—Susanna Lang