Mass Mourning

Mass Mourning



we cracked.

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.

Whole communities:

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.

Children abused

women and men raped

all the techniques of torture and terror


But this time the children refused to fear,

just cry.

We all refused to fight back,

for who else could we attack?


Just cry.


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

then opened

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?


Sons of/and money

Sure, I’ve never seen war, but I’m still bitter.
My country is still bombing.
My country that says I get to decide.

I’ve never wanted to bomb
countries I’ve never seen
but hear are full of people.

My country doesn’t want me to see
their bodies or their anguish or even
the beauty of their countryside.

I’ve never met anyone from Afghanistan
unless you count the American veteran who said,
“No, it’s not made of rubble, it’s the most beautiful

place I’ve ever seen.” I decided again no more bombs,
but see? The mother.
I am not the mother of bombs.

My own mother taught me this.
She died with a bumper sticker
taped to the inside back window

of her last car: in hopes she’d soon
be able to take it down. It said:
End less this war.

She’d taped it there 16 years ago.
She just died of natural causes
like a broken heart.

She taught me not to let them take
one’s sons to war. I aborted any sons.
I’d like to abort this mission, sir.

My country answers, these are your bombs,
so you must pay for them.
I grit my teeth to rubble.

I spit again: these are not my bombs.
Yes, he insists, these are your bombs
because you paid for them.

I will not pay.
I will not make enough money to
owe you anything,
country who calls itself mine.

May the child be at peace

May the child be at peace.
May the child’s peace radiate to all in her grasp.
May the child’s peace radiate to all whose grasp she is within.
May the pedophile and coyote be at peace.
May the child soldiers’ commander be at peace.
May the commander’s arms dealer be at peace
and the arms maker
and the investor
and the pensioner
and the inventor of money.

And you and I, my friends, and you and I.



This was originally published by Narrative Northeast.

The end of ceremony

Water is life
it’s a trail of tears

Earthlings this week
put planets 40 lightyears away on the front page
because they might be “awash in water”

because water is life
it’s a trail of prayers

Leaving the Great Campsite on fire
to welcome home the US government
we are walking
our eyes on the sky

Whose land
whose water
who’s awash in oil
in radio silence

water is life
we set fire


Note on the poem

“Water is life” is the rallying cry of the water protectors organized by the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens sacred land and drinking water for the tribe and millions downstream. On Feb. 22, 2017, the day the Army Corps of Engineers gave as a deadline to evacuate the water protectors’ encampment blocking the completion of the pipeline, the top-of-the-fold news was of the discovery of a star system with Earth-sized planets that might have water.

President Trump had signed an executive order to allow the continued building of the pipeline; militarized police and National Guard troops echoed the forceable removal of indigenous people since 1492.


Repression of media coverage of the direct action was repressed even before Trump came to power: