I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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We the people, we the one
times 320 million, I’m rounding up, there are really
too many grass blades to count,
wheat plants to tally, just see
the whole field swaying from here to that shy
blue mountain. Swaying
as in rocking, but also the other
definition of the verb: we sway, we influence,
we impress. Unless we’re asleep,
unless the field’s asleep, more a postcard
than a real field, portrait of the people
unmoved. You know that shooting last week?
I will admit the number dead
was too low to startle me
if you admit you felt the same,
and the person standing by you
agrees, and the person beside that person.
It has to be double digits,
don’t you think? To really
shake up your afternoon? I’m troubled by
how untroubled I felt
regarding the total coffins, five
if you care to know, five still
even if you don’t. I’m angry
that I’m getting used to it, the daily number
gunned down: pop-pop on Wednesday,
Thursday’s spent casings
pinging on the sidewalk. It all sounds
so industrial, there’s nothing metal
that won’t make a noise, I’m thinking every gun
should come with a microphone,
each street with loudspeakers
to broadcast their banging.
We would never sleep, the field
always awake, acres of swaying
up to that shy blue mountain, no wonder
it cowers on the horizon, I mean
look at us, look with the mountain’s eyes,
we the people
putting holes in the people.
The July issue of The Sun arrived the day after nine parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, were gunned down during Bible study.
I found David Hernandez’s poem “We Would Never Sleep” prophetic. He laments the “daily number” of people killed in mass shootings and the ensuing numbness. Hearing that five are dead hardly rouses a response in him. He writes: “It has to be double digits, / don’t you think?”
At the Emanuel Sunday service following the shooting, Reverend Norvel Goff proclaimed that only love and forgiveness can conquer hate. Some of the victims’ families publicly forgave the killer. May we all be inspired by this community’s example.