Poem by Matt Hohner • Photo by
The Maximum Effective Range
for the victims at
Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007
The diameter of a bullet is twenty-two millimeters
and the distance of its maximum effective range
is thirty yards, but further when fired by anger
fueled with paranoia, curving with the earth,
falling in a graceful arc at sixteen feet per second,
unlike these thirty-two dead, one suicide, twenty-six wounded.
The muzzle flash of a Walther P22 discharging
one hundred rounds in mere seconds is orange; the results maroon,
spilling out into a hallway from under a dorm room door.
In an expanding color wheel of panic and space:
thirty hungry ambulances, three hundred terrified parents,
a shocked nation of three hundred million.
But the old man who holds the door closed against the fury,
inches and moments from death, sixty-two years removed
from the six million dead of Auschwitz, of Buchenwald,
reduces the maximum effective range in a classroom considerably,
while the echoes of the shots and the moans of the dying
carried by the howling winds of that day
reach distant shores far across an ocean named for peace,
and the maximum effective range of the sounds
somehow amplified and heard by heaven,
washes over the ears of an unrelenting God.