Sunday, January 9, 2011

Poem After the Arizona Shootings

Helpless in the Face

of technology, I am competent still
at a number of things,
but this doesn’t matter.  It’s so unreal,
the shooting, the silence
as she sat up against the wall, a bullet
gone clean through her brain.

How can anyone grow up
thinking it’s an option to kill innocent
people, a child, passersby?
We all know the answer/s,
the disconnect and its distinct click

so like the snap of a mousetrap.
It gets harder and harder to accept
the death of small animals
in my own house, or insects, even as five
thousand or five hundred birds
fall from the sky.

But in one movie, death is easy.
In another, a police officer cannot face
the fact of his bullet,
his own gun following perfect orders.
The dead man was a criminal.  He did it,
but the officer is helpless
forever after.  Likewise, war.

We cannot make sense of our own times.
There are many kinds of people.
Some of them kill, some cannot.
Some believe in, some mock the apocalypse.
Some see it happening inside
everyone, at some time or another.

My husband takes the mouse out
into the shining snow.  My son goes
back to college today.  Everything shows
on me.  I am helpless
in the face.

Kathleen Kirk, January 9, 2011

Hand painting by Tony Rio


Anonymous said...

This just made me cry - I had a dead mouse on the doorstep yesterday, and Dennis left for school today, and the news is overwhelming. Thank you for this, Kathleen.

Kathleen said...

Sorry to make you cry, dear Donna. But we probably all needed to cry. Yes?

Collagemama said...

While we can't blame this all on vitriol, the raging media worries me. I just finished reading about anti-Semitism in 1930s Vienna in "The Hare With Amber Eyes".

My prayers go out to the family of the judge and all the others. Do you wonder if people have always said they cannot make sense of their own time?

Kathleen said...

I do wonder that, and I have encountered it in reading, people not able to make sense of their times. Always some terrible ongoing rage, some particular violence.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Beautiful response, Kathleen. Thanks for posting it.

Anonymous said...

so much that's impossible to make sense of.

flaubert said...

Senseless violence Kathleen. Like Donna said it is eloquently written.

Maureen said...

What I cannot understand is that, once again, so many people were aware of the shooter's problems - and no one acted, except to disenroll him or, as on FaceBook, flip him off as a crazie. It's like what happened at Virginia Tech and so many other places before that. The signs were obvious, they were known. We never learn.

I can't imagine what it must be like to be that young man's parents. I can't imagine what it must be like to be the parents of that beautiful nine-year-old whose story I read this morning with tears in my eyes.

We do feel "helpless in the face", understandably, but I have to think we're not; that we can agitate for change: insist on civility at every level and in everything we do, enact sensible gun laws, work to ensure mental health care is readily available and accessible, hold ourselves and each other accountable every time we take the course of hatred and violence instead of acceptance and love.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the poem.

And yet, I think, in the face of senselessness, competence does matter.

It is by our small, domestic acts, and in quiet company, that we find joy and express human kindness. We define our humanity by recognizing the reality of the pain of others, and trying not to add to it.

It's the fantasy that other people's pain isn't real, and doesn't matter, that seems to spill out of the glimpses we get into the minds of the perpetrators of these crimes. They think themselves heroes, and the rest of of us just cardboard characters, inanimate, unworthy backdrops to their own stories.

My words outline the logic of understanding it - your poem expresses the soul of understanding it.


Kathleen said...

Thank you, Bob. I lean into your small acts of kindness. And will try to make my smallest act matter in the way you suggest. Other people's pain is very real to me, and compassion (feeling with) is important to the logic by which I try to live my life. I think you are right that other people must be less real, or their own concerns all consuming, to people who commit this kind of violence. I was struck by the reaction, reported in the news, of the young man helping people in line, who called the event "unreal." Someone else might call it more real or superreal, but it suspended the ordinary in a way that, for a moment, maybe turned us all flimsy as cardboard. For a moment the outside world looked like the perpetrator's inside world. As you say, that's not a good place to live. The one with small human kindnesses is a good place to live.

Kathleen said...

And thanks, Maureen. Yes, to sensible gun laws! And, yes, to holding ourselves accountable and, as in Bob's lovely vision, holding ourselves to one another in love and kindness.

L.L. Barkat said...



Hannah Stephenson said...

Painfully beautiful, especially that last paragraph. Whew. Took my breath away. The quickness of this ending, of all endings.

I'm so glad that you shared this.

Kathleen said...

Thank you for sharing my woe, and for shivering with me.