breath vs bullets

Breath vs Bullets
by James Coburn

Children breathe against a gunman
their only defense.
We breathe facing weapons —
free to exhale smoke
from pierced lungs.
A gun is free to end children’s lives
because killers breathe.
Our children die in schools
taking their last breaths.
We breathe so guns will be safe.
We breathe to protect bullets.
We breathe so guns will survive.
Florida Congressman says,
“Killers will always find a gun.”
Children take their last breath,
panting their only defense
against slaughter.
Mothers hold their breath;
fathers breathe the pain.
Friends walk alone
or stay home,
in the silence
of fear
we do nothing to stop it
as shells fall
and murderers hunt at our feet
opening doors as bullets
hiss free with breath.

(Editor’s note: NonDoc publishes poetry, short prose, visual art and other artistic ideas pitched by creatives in Oklahoma and around the world. All submissions are encouraged, and new creatives are constantly being sought. Submit your work for publication by contacting

Support your international poetry publication

You have likely noticed that NonDoc publishes poetry from around the world. While we never dreamed we would serve as a space for such a variety of poetic voices, we are proud of the publishing opportunity that we provide. If you’d like to ensure NonDoc continues providing such a forum for poetry, consider becoming a Writers’ Fund donor today.

More poetry published on NonDoc

That Little Laborer by Bipin Khatiwada
The Covenant: ‘Now you hate it, for it’s queer’ by Derek Geiger
A New York kind of love poem: ‘Just for two’ by James Coburn
An appeal to a broken relationship by Nelson Vincent Ayomitunde
A Country Girl’s Cry by Bipin Khatiwada
Poems of war and power ‘as the dead cannot speak’ by James Coburn
The Funeral: ‘They called him Bug’ by Daryl Ross Halencek

James Coburn is an Oklahoma poet, photographer and journalist. His first book of poetry, "Words of Rain," was a 2015 finalist for the Oklahoma Book Awards. His work has appeared numerous anthologies. A long­time journalist for The Edmond Sun, Coburn is a 2013 inductee of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.