WE DO NOTHING AFTER A MASS SHOOTING IN KALAMAZOO

These grey daisies of sky, these clouds: Mary Lou,

Tyler, Barbara, Richard, Mary Jo, Dorothy.

Let these not only be names I lay down in a poem

 

on Easter Sunday. So I am one weed among many

dead flowers. I am where it is the hardest to be inside this

almost spring as one daffodil drugs a hummingbird

 

into kissing, and the ghost of my grandmother barefoot

in her front yard introduces herself to a maple leaf,

then another, reaching each leaf with a ladder so delicate-

 

orange, and touching each leaf to her cheek, and sticking

a tiny white name tag to each, even though we know

what’s coming, what the coming autumn will do,

 

how for these monumental deaths each year, we will

never receive justification. Kalamazoo, even now,

in blunt sunshine, a valley of cerulean overhead,

 

already among the neon joggers, each leaf is

being forgotten into a tree. Be honest with me.

This is how we save ourselves in the city: by turning away.

 

We are already turning away from silence,

that silence— the blood we are swallowing—

that silence of my father against the maple tree

 

the day his mother died, a poppy crushed

in his coat pocket, that silence after six people

shot dead in a city I’ve only begun to love.

 

Wait. That silence we will soon shoulder away

with noise is still right here. The world’s

engine has stalled, and this is a moment.

 

Let me stay inside it. There is a great cloud

which is standing before me in the center

of this room in the center of any city,

 

and I have been standing here trying to shout

that thing away (forgive me). Let me reach

for the harder thing, to have two full congregations

 

of teeth in the cathedral of the throat

and not to use them, yes, this must be my impossible

human challenge, to fill this newest loneliness

 

with silence, to lie down on my back in the lilacs

with my eyes open, and to live here, and to sing nothing…

but when the whole field falls again, we will wake up one day

 

and find ourselves responsible for the world. And what will we do

with this gift of having survived? Will we funeral each leaf,

and rub each leaf to our cheek, and then pin each leaf

 

back on the living tree? Will we re-build the red forest

out of dead poppies? No. We will do nothing. So every leaf

must be a field, then, every flower, an ocean, and the ghost

 

of my grandmother is a nation of fallen down starlings,

and the camera must be sharpening its focus on us, now,

and we weeds who are left standing, left wagging our heads,

 

left alive, again, my good green friends, again, out of all

that is tiny but valuable, look at the dead we’ve made.

 

***

 

Ephraim Scott Sommers is a poet and singer-songwriter from Atascadero, California. His book of poems, The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire (Tebot Bach Press), was awarded the 2016 Patricia Bibby First Book Award. Recent poems, essays, and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Minnesota Review, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. For music and poems, please visit: http://www.ephraimscottsommers.com/

 

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