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.

OH, NOAH

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.

 

AN ALIEN(‘S) JOURNEY

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.

CORSO

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.

RELATIVITY

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.

WORD

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 

REFLECTING ON THE HARBOR

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
imagining that,
in her world,
all of the people
are merely fish.