(There were 57 people confirmed murdered on Nov. 23, 2009. The 58th victim is still missing. This poem originally appeared in High Chair, Issue 12.)
We can be buried by the things that do not worry us at this hour.
This car the only car on this street.
We talk about breakfast as if it were sacred. No child knocking on our windows, no display of garlands. Only an idling garbage truck, men fixing a crooked billboard.
(Beggars knock on the glass, so you knock back, and they move on. When did it come to pass that a knock meant I am alive but I am not here? When did it come to pass that a knock meant No?)
The trains are dead at this hour, but I only had the heart to say, The trains are silent.
57 bodies. They knock outside my car window, and I knock back because I am weak.
What is the point of my telling you this?
All around you, suddenly: a shielded radiance, a muted glory. Perhaps you’ll look at me and think, There is no real kindness in the world, but don’t we know this already?
On that road, a man in a sweat-stained uniform is saying, Here. And here. And here.
We have never been there. We will never be there. Before the guns were fired into their faces the victims must have thought, No help will come to me now, and they were right.
An afterlife? Perhaps. Perhaps it is a place. Perhaps in that place is clarity. A blinding. But right now we can still see. For example, I still like flowers. I still look forward to the smell of morning. Here. And here. And here. The places where you want to be kissed.
I collect them like newspaper clippings. A gesture that makes me smile, or perhaps a moment that makes me feel worthless. Here is the trick in begging: put a few coins in the can to fool people about your worth. All I want to say: I was not empty when I first came to you.
And now this morning that does not find them in it. The knocking on glass as we read about mutilated genitalia, an exit wound the size of a saucer. A coin clangs on the bottom of the can. Please. Please. Please.
The sun rose the day after the massacre. This is either indifference, or a show of an infinite mercy.
– It is still dark.
– We are not frightened.
– We turn away like the morning.
– We dream of an open field.