Poured out into the streets
to mourn the measure of our losses,
flooded houses of worship,
in parks held candleless vigils:
wicks couldn’t hold a flame through the driving tears.
A man (he must have heard the news
of this latest senselessness on the radio)
opened the door to his car and let the stored tears
burst into the gutter.
It wasn’t the first time we’d wept:
the last time, even the President’s voice had cracked.
The mothers of pistol fodder,
the police fodder, the invisible until shot,
have been crying since ‘emancipation,’
and of course since long before, each time a mate or child stolen,
each time a massacre, a genocide occurred or obscured.
Churches had had cry-ins
at the still smoldering buildings:
and when firehose water was not enough,
our tears quelled the last of the embers.
In Colombine and Newtown,
we wept in schoolyards.
Jackson State, Kent State, Virginia Tech.
Aurora and Oklahoma City.
We stopped counting.
Surely individuals, unreported, standing,
cried into their TVs until they shorted out
one war or another,
having given up pounding the top of the set
with their sore fists.
But this time the dam broke.
Even the color guard snapped,
laid down their rifles, kneeled over them
and cried until they washed away.
The streets were finally, literally
flooded. We couldn’t stop mourning.
The anger, the blame—now useless.
The stoicism, the cynicism—stopped.
Eyes widened, then squeezed.
Wailing, like you hear some cultures do at funerals.
Wailing, like cops’ sirens, like an ambulance.
This time it wasn’t just our own,
it was Paris and Beirut, Syria and Iraq
Iran, Vietnam, Hiroshima, Bosnia
Korea, Congo, Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Libya,
Guatemala, Libya, again
All the places we have bombed:
Bikini Atoll, and other obscure places whose names
we can’t pronounce, places we can’t find on a map.
Finally it hits us:
How many have died?
How many loved ones and strangers?
How useless the violence has been!
Children gunned down—motive unclear.
women and men raped
all the techniques of torture and terror
But this time the children refused to fear,
We all refused to fight back,
for who else could we attack?
Rivers overflowed and washed through Walmarts.
guns floated and sank, war games, too.
Warhead silos, rusty already, filled to the brim.
Still we couldn’t stop.
We could feel how related we are to all
we had destroyed, we ripped our garments, tore our callouses
off and cried,
it didn’t matter anymore, we were all so related,
out in that field beyond right and wrong.
There was a little calm there
We made more connections,
little smiles of recognition,
our ancient faces, our child faces showing through
the bitter mask of this life.
Then it got worse:
we remembered the species
extinct or nearly.
A woman opened the door to the natural history museum
and the dodo bird
all the taxidermy
horn of black rhino
bones of whale
began to float, still float.
Gale winds sprung the zoo and the factory farm gates open
the wailing now howling.
All kinds of eerie voices added in:
the cry of a baby coyote separated from her pack,
the cry of a swan who’s lost a mate,
the loon’s ancient echo off a lake.
Our sorrow multiplied,
but we carried it for each other.
Our hearts squeezed, throats squeezed
like a spigot
like a fire hydrant on a hot day
in the ‘hood.
We walked through our tears
until we could gather and see each others’ faces
washed clean and open
and we listened again
to the sound of the loon
as she landed
on the lake we had made.
The “we” in this poem is intentionally referring to Americans.
What a difference a year makes. This was published (on Visitant) only a year ago and already sounds like a historic document. Remember having a president who would cry?