too soon, Zaevion

…in memory of Zaevion Dobson, gunned down in Knoxville, 12/17/2015

by Marilyn Kallet

A fifteen-year old should be
Dreaming about prom,
Whom to invite,

About football,
Number 24, sprinting
To the end line,

About classes,
Colleges,
Anything.

But Zaevian Dobson
Hurled his strong
Young body

In the way of bullets.
His body was too human
To shatter metal.

His body proved
Strong enough to stop bullets
From killing two friends,

Young women who will
Embody
His memory.

Maybe they will call
A son
Zaevion, and tell him,

“You are named for
a man who was not too young
to do the right thing. A hero.”

“Yes, yes, we know,”
teens will sigh.
President Obama invoked him,

The young man who
Sacrificed himself
Without a breath of doubt.

But I am thinking now of Mrs. Dobson,
His mother, who taught him
To think first

Of others,
Thinking of the ache,
The emptiness,

Her son
Shattered by cold metal
Fired from the hands

Of twenty-somethings:
“barrage of bullets”
“senseless shooting spree”––

As if there could be
A meaningful shooting
spree––

Zaevion is a beautiful name,
Now more beautiful,
His mother’s consolation.

A Tenth Grader,
He should have been
Studying biology

And playing ball.
He should still be
Home with family.

Aren’t I a mother too?
So I lay my heart on the page
For Mrs. Dobson.

I want to kill the bullet that
Killed your son, Zenobia.
Want to stop this madness.

Would I throw myself in the way?
I am a professor,
But Zae, you are my teacher now.


Marilyn Kallet is the author of 18 books, including How Our Bodies Learned, The Love That Moves Me and Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, poetry from Black Widow Press. She has translated Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems, Péret’s The Big Game, and co-translated Chantal Bizzini’s Disenchanted City. Dr. Kallet is Nancy Moore Goslee Professor of English at the University of Tennessee. She also leads poetry workshops for VCCA-France, in Auvillar. She has performed her poems on campuses and in theaters across the United States as well as in France and Poland, as a guest of the U.S. Embassy’s “America Presents” program. The University of Tennessee lists her as a specialist on poetry’s role in times of crisis, as well as on poetry and healing, poetry and humor, poetry and dreams, poetry and Jewish identity.


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