Editor’s note: Former CU Boulder assistant professor Khadijah Queen read this original poem at the March 25 Fairview High School vigil for the victims of the King Soopers shooting. With Queen’s permission, we are publishing the poem in honor of the one-year anniversary of the shooting.
Ordinary monuments—take the interstate, exit right
before the mall, past the bowling alley, turn left
at the post office, turn right at the gas station, don’t go
past Walmart or Rite Aid or Waffle House, or you’ve gone
too far. We try to track the sites of trauma
we drive past—nightclubs, day spas, movie theaters, elementary schools,
high schools, colleges, concert halls, synagogues, churches,
mosques, homes where once we slept, ate, laughed, eased
our troubles, made some trouble, watched football and played video games,
gathered together in highest life, in worship, in praise of love,
in celebration—and we fail. We cannot count the losses
or their places. But we don’t give up—we keep
trying, we keep fighting, we shape our failures into resolve—
every disaster tattooed into our bloodstreams like faults in the earth.
Let us erupt.
Let us mark the moment our voices and our works turned to roots
bound to build shelter, the moment we reshaped
the distance between us into song—a song for remembering
this grief etched in flesh and bone
can teach us how to protect each other.
Khadijah Queen is an associate professor of creative writing at Virginia Polytechnic & State University.