by Kathleen O’Toole

Runner Up, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize

The children swarm outside
the supermarket, arms flailing,
their high-pitched exclamations
surround me, my own arms laden
with groceries. My mind suddenly shifts
to tally one week’s arithmetic of grief:
eighty children among the hundreds killed
in a fine-tuned cone of shrapnel,
three siblings on a Gaza rooftop
before the missile landed, and four
cousins on a beach incinerated
in the time it takes me to close the car door.
Tonight, the trees are full of starlings,
their racket rising into a delicate
tremolo, like in that Bernstein Sonata
for Violin that stretches the strings
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