RESOUNDING SILENCE*

(*Be forewarned, this is a shift from the usual post. On December 14, 1992 there was a shooting on the campus of Simon’s Rock College of Bard. A professor and student died, four others (my son included) were seriously wounded. Twenty years to the day later, in Connecticut 26 people died in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then there have been so many, many other mass shootings in our country. This is in honor of all the victims, alive and departed.)

— In memory of Galen Gibson and Nacunan Saez, victims of a greater insanity, December 14, 1992

It was a night much like this
but for a quarter century’s slow elapse.
It was a place much like this
resting beneath freshly fallen snow.
          The solution is quite simple He
          wrote, we need only round them up,
          ship them to the desert.
          If AIDS doesn’t take them
          in ten years, we can
          finish the job then.

It was a night much like this
His “then” has come but there
is no job left for Him to finish
          He offered them up
          as a sacrifice to His god
          Tonight they have no body
          to offer to our tongues, no blood
          for our lips.
          We have only settled ground
          of barren altars
          outside Buenos Aires,
          in a snow shrouded Gloucester.
          We have no icons
          through which to channel our prayer
          save the flattened lead slugs
          the earth rejects.

It was a night much like this
          but Galen’s blood no longer stains the snow
          piled along side the library door,
          there are no shards
          of windshield, bits of skull
          where Nacuñan looked
          momentarily into His eyes.
          There is no blood tonight
          on the stairs to my son’s apartment
          nor on the dormitory stairs he limped that night
          to escape what he could not see
          his legs rejecting him.

It was a night much like this one
          but the walls are bare
          there are no gurneys
          pressed against the wall,
          gurneys I needed to believe,
          convinced myself, were
          starched sheet covered supplies.

VISIONS

The small child peers through
the bamboo poles of the bridge
as he stares down at a turtle
who stares up at him with equal fascination.
His mother excitedly says, “see the turtle?”
Of course he can see the turtle
but he also sees an Ichthyosaurus
and giant whales and frightening fish.
Later, as she points out an iguana,
he will see the small lizard and all
manner of dinosaurs roaming,
a pterodactyl swooping overhead
mimicking a crow, for pterodactyl
have the same magical power as coyotes.
Tonight he will dream of all these beasts
the amazing lands he visited
while in the living room his mother
will tell his father, “Jonathan saw turtle today,”
for parents can only see with two eyes.

MAGIC, ONCE

As a child he had a magical power.
He didn’t like to use it, didn’t want others
to know he had it, certainly couldn’t share it.
He wasn’t certain when it began to fade,
but he noticed the power diminished as he grew,
as he learned more about the world,
and there was absolutely nothing he could do
to stop or even slow its diminution.
He knew he would miss it, knew he
would always remember it even when
there was no longer a trace of it.
He stopped thinking about it as life
engulfed him in its ever-present moments.
Every once in a while he would pause
and remember it with fondness for
innocence is not something you lose willingly.

MOTHER

 

I called my mother the other day
and she did not answer, which
she would always do when I called.
The dead, I concluded, no longer
play by the rules they did
when they were still alive.
Of course she will call me soon,
disrupting my sleep, and chastise
me for not trying again.
But she will quickly slip into
reading the list of what
she expects from me, for
either living or dead,
mother’s expectations must
always be met, no matter what.

STAR WALKER

His brother said that if you left
the windows open at night, the ghosts
would come in and might steal your soul.
He didn’t care, he wanted to hear
the song the stars sang every night,
to see them come down and move
in pairs across the mesa, for stars,
he knew turned orange when they
left their celestial perch, and would
certainly keep the ghosts away,
for ghosts were like rabbits and hid
when the stars came near, and
once in a while, if a ghost moved
too slowly he would hear its cry
as it was captured by a star.
And, he was certain, ghosts
preferred doors, and they kept theirs
tightly locked, for you never knew
what you’d find out on the mesa.

TIME’S ARROW CURSED

 

He will be 90 in a few weeks.
He doesn’t think this is possible.
He says he wasn’t supposed
to live this long.
He asks again how old he is.
You’re still 89, I tell him.
He has a relieved look on his face.
Then he smiles at me, says,
that means you are pretty old yourself.
I begrudgingly agree, though only out of necessity.
Two weeks ago he was certain
he was on the verge of death.
Today he says he is fine, says
he heard someone claim to be dying
but can’t imagine who it was.
Perhaps it was in his dreams, he says.
He goes back to watching television intently.
Tomorrow he won’t recall what he watched,
or perhaps that he watched.
But he knows he will be 90 soon,
or something like it.

ONCE

It was easier being Buddhist
when I was young, despite
the fact I had no good idea
what Buddhism truly was.
for a child the moment is all
there is, the past so short that
it means nothing, the future something
that will arrive as and when it wishes.
For a child, things will go wrong,
and do so with fair regularity,
but children are also physicists,
and the Lorenz effect guarantees
that it was never really their fault,
and when all else fails, they
simply blame karma.