A gunshot is a word that needs no translation. Stop.
Parents had to get us kids after seven hours of lockdown. –
The scariest thing about death
is how far from home you seem to go
and there are so many unknown things to be sad about. –
On the drive home, the lion-hide-colored leaves look like
hectically severed bird wings on the bushes.
The juniper orbs look like a candy trail for a trusting kid.
Showing a detour around the execution chamber at Columbine
High School, down the street from my middle school,
the traffic cones’ orange is chemical,
rude against the green of what’s been spared road paste.
I see my first very white fire hydrant as we pass
the police-clogged school, where a sheriff
floods each car with his silver flashlight
whose handle could double as a club.
I bow my head and when I look up,
I see more white hydrants – they are not white;
they are yellow encased in hard, white robes,
arms out in a T like the memorial crosses
we’ll erect and two of which will be burned
every year now on the anniversary –
as we stop-and-go past the cautioned-off scene.
When we heard the explosions,
a swooned sun was belly up in past-tense red
is why the clearest indication of how
I’m doing is still to ask me how’s the weather.
Is the sun we’ve not seen for days impotent behind the clouds?
Abusive? Or does it shine lucidly, like an officer’s torch?
Questions are for when you’re older.
I think aren’t we listening –
I wanted a love, I think, I wanted a love that will
make me realize any hope I had before it
was incomplete. – Love kills what it needs,
I know, like when you fight afraid
which is so far from fighting fear –
but how to tend to this empty barrel, this empty head?
Those 15 empty desks in US History class up the road,
these two empty chairs at youth group the very next evening?
The news showing – over and over – the half limp boy falling
from a shattered window into the arms of frazzled medics?
The referencing of it – over and over – after every subsequent
scourge; so often that when I saw the word uncapitalized for the first
time years later, I didn’t know the word? (It is a thin-winged, blue
and white flower, the official one of my home state.)
I am older. I live in another state by another scene engulfed
in the same Do-Not-Enter tape and spinning lights and hammering
sounds that pound my head down, down,
stop. I don’t think, I don’t think aren’t we listening anymore.
God. We are not. We are the tiniest blue hummingbird
in all that ever was – in a whittled cage with its Coliseum bars,
locked iridescent gate and missing recompense – golden as silence.
We are asked to peel potatoes.
We are told to put the skins,
which my brother can produce in almost
one long spiraling strip, into a wobbly metal bowl.
We will save them for soup.
I think. I do not think the popular thing is true;
death is not a part of life.
(My brother finishes flaying his spuds, bounds off
into the unmowed yard.)
It is harder than that;
It is not as if life and death amicably separated
like an out-of-love couple so that they may find
more satisfying companions.
Dad reaches inside for breath enough to call his boy back
but he’s been eagerly received by our land’s high, hard tresses,
blonde like she was even up to this day last year.
We have every day to have and to hold a poorly negotiated rivalry
between polar idealists. I will not outlive my grief.
When Mom laughed, she laughed from her soul
they said. Her grief howled like wind in tunnels, too.
I will not outlive my grief.
But maybe it is not impossible to live;
extremes can exist back to back.
I give you the zebra, I give you grief, I give you a naked potato.
Which I sliced fingers open to prepare.
Dad is still looking into where his boy disappeared, or
maybe past it now, to the yard of stones showing sayings.
Death is apart from life, he says. It will always be as hard as that.