(*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.
None of us can remember what was here before. We can search for clues, develop elaborate surmises and find telling relics from which we can conclude this or that, with a certitude the gods would surely mock. But our field of vision is restricted, our memories equally so, and we are left with one certainty, supposition. And that will be true at least until the moment we realize that we too are antediluvian and we hear the sound of the approaching flood.
He has just returned from the land of Others, where he expected to see all manner of things that would, could never happened to him. He thought he would be able to explain why this was, but now those things are happening to him. He suspects it is because he came to close to the land of Those People, and he is certain are the cause of all the trouble in his carefully constructed world. It is why, he says, he never wanted anything to do with them.
When my back was turned, Corso slipped away somewhere in Wisconsin silently, without protest carried off by Charon across a gasoline river. There was no bomb to announce his departure, no Queens orphanage stopped frozen in a silent moment. In the small park at the north end of Salt Lake City no one lifted a jug of bad wine to toast him, the magic bus just rolled by. In the City Lights bookstore Ferlinghetti shed a tear that dried on the old wood floor and from above a brief howl pierced the morning calm. Outside the small temple on a back street in Tokyo a Buddhist monk bowed before the statue, read the wooden prayer card and whispered Toodle-oo.
I can no more imagine a lack of freedom then they can imagine the freedom I assume. It is always like that imaginings are real until you try to make them corporeal, then the evanescence is all that is real. It is easy to ask how can they live in such poverty, and had they free voice they might ask how you don’t drown in a sea of freedom and choice. We cannot see the world through each other’s eyes if we don’t first see each other’s eyes.
If I asked you for one word how would you answer? In your dreams, do you have both arms, can you write your thoughts on a scrap of paper and tuck it away? You had a lover, once, and he would trace his finger along your thigh. Do you miss that touch as you rub the jagged scar? Can you taste the lamb simmered slowly, fragrant, the sauce dredged by the crusty bread, or do you only taste the hard tack tossed from the truck? If they gave you back your tongue and I asked you for one word how would you answer?
First published in “Eureka Literary Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2,(c) 1997, Eureka College
On the anniversary
of the start of a war
one feels almost compelled
to speak to its horrors,
its cause, its effect.
But we live in an age
where wars are plentiful,
when peace is the exception
and war seems to loom
around every corner.
So on this anniversary
I watch the snowy egret
stare into the pond
outside my window,
the great bird calmly
in her world,
all of the people
are merely fish.