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Monday, April 22, 2013
Wake up, America!
This one is harder for me. I find it difficult to stay away from the tricky issues while trying to preserve the basically more beatific ideal of writing poetry for poetry month. I wanted to write uplifting tomes with beautiful words cascading around themselves in a whirlpool waterfall of emotions and images. But life intervenes. The events of the past seven days since the Boston Marathon bombing have moved quickly, in one respect, but with deliberate slowness in another. It was like watching paint dry, then suddenly being able to touch the wall.
All the while, I kept thinking about America beyond the obvious resilience – one commentator called it defiance, and that may be a better word – of our people, from Boston outward like an earthquake. I kept thinking about how the bombing was different, but in many ways just another act of violence on American soil. Wasn’t Aurora an act of terror? Wasn’t Newtown the most heinous act of terror imaginable?
Being insatiably curious, Diane and I wondered about the gun legislation shot down by the Senate mid-week. We wondered how our two senators voted. With 90 percent of Americans wanting stricter background checks and the Democrats seemingly united on the issue, we still realized that Montana is one of the most gun-friendly states in the Union, and sure enough, both our senators voted against the measure. Four Democrats broke ranks – John Tester and Max Baucus among them. I understand: they were afraid to mess with their base. I understand: the vote fell 6 short; even two yes votes would not have passed it. I understand: I am deeply ashamed.
Memories are short. In the four months between Newtown and the vote, over 3,500 people died from gun violence on our streets. On Sunday night, near Seattle, five people lost their lives in a multiple murder suicide-by-cop outburst. As tragic as Boston was, and it was unforgivably and unforgettably horrific, the death toll last night was higher. Death tolls of more than one at a time seem to be rising. The problem is obvious, but nobody seems genuinely interested in talking about it, especially not in Congress.
So today’s poem is an angrier, sadder, certainly less flowery effort. Forgive.
//The Buffalo People
/Grow up, America!
/Stop and smell the cordite.
/Galvanized by tragedy,
/Our evolution travels
/Only as far as our memory
/Until the next time
/The earth shakes, the bullets fly,
/The shrapnel takes a few,
/The wolf cuts out a straggler.
/Like a herd of buffalo
/We stand firm in the face of hunters
/Plucking us off one by one
/Until we stampede
/And they follow.
I was born in Holland in 1950. My parents immigrated to the US when I was two. I have many close friends and family on both continents. My wife Diane and I have been happily married since 1974. I have four children and one grandchild (two more are on the way). I love writing and sharing what I wrote most of all..