Nashville Covenant Poems

Nashville Covenant Poems

A Poem by Michael R. Burch

These are poems about the Nashville Covenant School shootings.


Nashville Covenant School Shooting Poems

I am dedicating these poems to the children and school employees who perished in the Nashville Covenant School shootings on March 27, 2023. While in the past I have dedicated poems to the victims and survivors of Aurora, Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook and Santa Fe school shootings, this one hits close to home because I live in Nashville.  Michael R. Burch

Nashville Covenant Call to Love
by Michael R. Burch

Our hearts are broken today
for our children's small bodies lie broken;
let us gather them up, as we may,
that the truth of our Love may be spoken;
then, when we have put them away
to nevermore dream, or be woken,
let us think of the living, and pray
for true Love, not some miserable token,
to command us, for strength to obey.

The three students shot and killed in the Nashville Covenant massacre were all nine-year-olds. They were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. Three adults were also killed in the shooting: 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, 61-year-old Mike Hill and 60-year-old Katherine Koonce. It is no longer good enough to talk about loving our children and praying for them to be safe. We have to protect them from mass murderers armed with assault weapons. The alleged serial killer, Audrey Hale, was reportedly armed with an AR-style rifle and an AR-style pistol. In more civilized nations citizens cannot legally purchase such military-grade weapons. The Nashville Covenant massacre marked the 19th shooting at an American school or university, so far in the first three months of 2023, according to CNN. With six victims dead, the Covenant massacre is the deadliest school shooting since the one in Uvalde, Texas that left 21 people dead in May 2022.

For a Nashville Covenant Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails, when thunder howls,
when hailstones scream while winter scowls
and nights compound dark frosts with snow?
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

It's hard to think of mothers not having the chance to say goodbye to their children, and just as hard to think of them having to say goodbye. Three nine-year-old children died in another senseless massacre. Surely as a nation we must do everything possible to prevent either scenario, to the best of our ability.

Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live nine artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

Epitaph for a Nashville Covenant Student
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.


As springs’ budding blossoms emerge
the raptors glide mercilessly.
Michael R. Burch

I wrote this haiku-like poem on 3-27-2023 after the Nashville Covenant school shooting massacre.

This poem is for mothers who lost children at Nashville Covenant and in other similar tragedies...

by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
Of one fallen star.

I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for the Nashville Covenant survivors

I pray tonight
the starry light
surround you.

I pray
each day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere the morrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels' white chorales
sing, and astound you.

Nashville Covenant Call to Action
by Michael R. Burch

We see their small coffins
and our hearts break,
so we ask the NRA
"Did you make a mistake?"

And we vow to save the next child
for sweet love's sake,
but also to protect ourselves
from such heartache.

The lives, safety and happiness of our children depend on our ability to persuade the NRA and its political lackeys to stop exalting money and political gain above the life, liberty and happiness of innocents. What is the cost of banning assault weapons, compared to the ultimate price innocents pay when they are used by madmen playing Rambo in classrooms and theaters? Ironically, just hours before the Sandy Hook massacre, in a weekly column that I write for the Nashville City Paper, I pointed out that right-wing politicians are not just demanding the "right" of citizens to bear loaded handguns into restaurants that serve alcohol and bars  a combustible mix. No, people who call themselves "conservative Christians" in collusion with the NRA and its gun lobby are demanding the right to carry assault weapons everywhere ... which "logically" means into universities, high schools, grade schools, kindergartens, pre-schools, Sunday schools and maternity wards. When I wrote this, I was speaking ironically  I thought  but then a few hours later the NRA and its political minions made me seem like a prophet.

Shooting Gallery
by Michael R. Burch

If we live by the rule of the gun
what can a child do,
but run?

Sixteen of the students who died at Sandy Hook were six years old; the other four students were seven. I wrote the poem below for another child gunned down by a madman. While we cannot legislate sanity, we can be sane enough to legislate away the "right" of serial killers to purchase assault weapons so easily. We can defend many small victims from such carnage, if "we the people" have the wisdom and the will to defend them.

Child of 9-11
by Michael R. Burch

a poem for Christina-Taylor Green, who was born
on September 11, 2001 and died at age nine,
shot to death ...

Child of 9-11, beloved,
I bring this lily, lay it down
here at your feet, and eiderdown,
and all soft things, for your gentle spirit.
I bring this psalm  I hope you hear it.

Much love I bring  I lay it down

here by your form, which is not you,
but what you left this shell-shocked world
to help us learn what we must do
to save another child like you.

Child of 9-11, I know
you are not here, but watch, afar
from distant stars, where angels rue
the brutal things some mortals do.
I also watch; I also rue.

And so I make this pledge and vow:
though I may weep, I will not rest
nor will my pen fail heaven's test
till guns and wars and hate are banned
from every shore, from every land.

Child of 9-11, I grieve
your tender life, cut short ... bereaved,
what can I do, but pledge my life
to saving lives like yours? Belief
in your sweet worth has led me here ...

I give my all: my pen, this tear,
this lily and this eiderdown,
and all soft things my heart can bear;
I bear them to your final bier,
and leave them with my promise, here.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings left 27 students and educators dead, and question our nation's sanity and resolve to put children's lives above money and politics. Why do we allow serial killers like Adam Lanza to have such easy access to assault weapons and wreak destruction on innocent children and their teachers? Surely every thinking American knows that assault weapons are being sold and distributed so freely only to fill the coffers of gun dealers and the NRA, and for the political gain of those politicians who accept their bribes (euphemistically called "campaign contributions"). When will we call this evil collusion what it really is: treason, infamy, and the murder of innocents? Adam Lanza may have been insane, but what is the excuse of the NRA and its bribe-taking political lackeys?

This haiku below makes me think of the students and teachers of Sandy Hook, who were trapped in a war zone:

stood at the end of the hall
in the long shadows
original haiku by Watanabe Hakusen, translation by Michael R. Burch

It is up to us, as a nation, to choose between the "rights" of adults to carry assault weapons and loaded, concealed weapons without restriction, and the right of children not to be exposed to the war zones that other dubious "right" creates in school hallways. Are we going to make it "legal" for anyone with a grudge against life to carry out Rambo-like assaults in grade school classrooms and corridors? What if the next would-be Rambo wants to up the ante by shooting up a kindergarten or nursery school?

Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

It seems to me that the NRA has declared a war  an open season  on our children, by insisting that assault weapons must be available to every Tom, Dick and Dirty Harry. But what will we, the people, say and do?

Whence Now?
by Michael R. Burch

Grown darkly accustomed to grief,
will we ever turn over a new leaf?

Who knows what wonderful things the twenty dead children and the seven dead educators might have accomplished, if they had lived? Now they are only memories, and for most of the world memories diffuse with time. Let us try to keep them alive in our minds and hearts, and prevent what happened to them from happening to other innocents and their caregivers.

by Michael R. Burch

Something inescapable is lost
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
and finality has swept into a corner where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.


Both victor and vanquished are dewdrops:

flashes of light

briefly illuminating the void.

Ouchi Yoshitaka, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

by michael r. burch

we have grown too far apart,
each heart
long numbed by time and pain.

we have grown too far apart;
the DARK
now calls us. why refrain?

we have grown too far apart;
what spark
could ignite our lives again

or persuade us to remain?

Keywords/Tags: Nashville, Nashville Covenant, Nashville Covenant Presbyterian School, school shooting, shootings, massacre, children, kids, students, child abuse, gun control, America, United States, USA, death, deaths, murder, serial murder, massacre, bereavement, class, classes

© 2023 Michael R. Burch

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Added on March 29, 2023
Last Updated on June 17, 2023
Tags: Nashville Covenant School, school shootings, children, guns, gun control, NRA, USA, America