why / why not?


It scans like a poem of horror:
 Sandy Hook, The Twin Towers, Virginia Tech,
Boylston Street, Watertown

the number of lives lost mattering less
than the geography of home —
‘the Marathon Bombers’
pinned to the calendar irretrievably

it’s us now

‘He was not very good’
said Son #1 of his wrestling.
‘She had been by that boat many times,’
said Son #2.

it is us, now

Driving past Aurora days earlier,
we wondered where Columbine was.
Tourism of extreme violence?

Out West, “Guns For Sale”
situated right next to “Baskin-Robbins”
in an ordinary strip mall.
How glib to think: violence happens elsewhere.

(Never mind Sandy Hook)

In Poco and Mama’s, there it is
right above the specials:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with you Boston.”
We want to shout
in a crowded plaza the next morning:
“We are from Boston!”

Endless looping of
CNN footage at the airport
itching at the eyes, scoring the mind.
Delays, images on the screen,
make getting home seem impossible.
No wonder the future gets tagged


again, by the fragile.

We land and drive west out of Boston,
the familiar places are not.
A ghost town welcome.

The rotary that spirals off
to Watertown, usually chaotic
with drivers jockeying for position,
is deserted. Completely.

The road home spooky.

After the capture (they found him! he’s alive!),
and sleeping for twelve hours
there is some sense of relief, but
not really.

Why that eight year old? Why at the finish line?
Why that foreign exchange student or that rookie cop?

And then there is the matter of the pocked future.

It can help to employ
a practice. Try it: Ask,
“Why not?” after you ask: “Why?”

The shame, the loss (why?)
of a young man gone
so terribly wrong (why not?)

“Kinda quiet, athletic, relaxed and likeable” could describe
any number of our sons. Why him
and not them? Why not?

A friend works at MIT,
another lives in Watertown.
We knew exactly where the tape
described the neighborhood, just off
of Mt. Auburn.

Why here – so close and so personal?
Why not?

Why use the event to confirm visions of a bleak future?
Why not?
Why such horrible and random violence?
Why continue with anything, with say, hope or cheer?
Why not? Why not?

But now another topic forms.
Not connected, but really, deep down connected,
like so much else.

14 thoughts on “why / why not?

  1. deedeemallon

    Hi Mary Ann – then you know how weird it was to be away and to tune into media whenever and wherever you could, and to want to tell anyone and everyone that you were from Boston… and to return? so, so strange. love to you and family, too.

    1. deedeemallon

      Mo — interconnected is right. Closer by we saw how digital media made all the difference in solving the case. And blurred the lines between spectator and participant.

  2. Ginny

    Just so many elements of horror it is impossible to contain them all. And the future? That dark cloud on the horizon. I can understand why so many kids are depressed. It is depressing. With the old, or older, it is easy enough to pull the veil of the present across the threats and focus on a task at hand, but that is not the nature of the young. How do you encourage them? Remind them that life and people can be good, when there are so few examples to show?

    1. deedeemallon

      Ginny — This is what we are dealing with as parents (and as aunts!). It seems that the state of the world (just throw in climate change and the decline of the middle class to round it out) requires a whole new level of resilience.

  3. saskia

    today we count our blessings, why not us? we were lucky
    tomorrow? we just don’t know;
    you have been in my thoughts a lot this week, living so close to this horror

    it is beyond my comprehension, really

    1. deedeemallon

      Hi saskia. Beyond all our comprehensions, really. How connected we all are! And if we can’t use the events as an opportunity to count our blessings, as you say, then what?

  4. Karoda

    I made a choice not to watch tv but take news of it all via radio or listen to tv with my back turned. The why/why not question goes a long way back with me…and I thank you for begging the question in poetic form.

    1. deedeemallon

      I might have done the same were we not waiting in airports for twenty five hours during the manhunt, with screens everywhere one turned, WITH text scrolling along, so that even over the noise, you could see what was being said.

      Who am I kidding? There was something about being out of town that made us absolute news junkies. I’ve never, ever, wanted twitter before, but my son was way ahead of the television coverage….

      We are all very relieved, of course, and even though the show of force was scary at times, in the end, it seems our police/FBI/Homeland teams made a bunch of right choices…

      I couldn’t help but wonder how all of this might have felt to a mother in Roxbury who has lost a child to gun violence… whose loss did not even make it to the cover of The Globe… where press conferences don’t draw the big guys, with SWAT teams and helicopters and, and, and… Where people generally aren’t paying all that much attention. I recognize that terrorism warrants a different response than a local shooting, but the loss to that mother is the same loss, the very same loss, as the one the mother of the eight year old boy who died this week is experiencing…

  5. Nancy

    Dee, what a scary week for you. I too felt a need to say, my connection. I’ve only traveled there once, but street names and places were familiar…and my son lives there with his girlfriend. My cousin and a friend were there to watch the friend (from the Netherlands) run the race. I just keep announcing that I am so thankful that they all were OK (they were at the race waiting for the friend).

  6. gaile

    dee, i know how shaken you are from this horrible tragedy. i live in oklahoma city and i understand the horror and confusion of why? how? and then feeling of needing all the information, and then feeling sick at hearing it. it’s all so very heartbreaking. but i will say some normalcy returns, even though at times the thought of “will it happen again and pray that it won’t happen anywhere”, knowing that it probably will somewhere, sometime. it’s so hard to understand how someone could do that. and i’m so sorry that the community of Boston is suffering through this horrible tragedy.

    1. deedeemallon

      Thank you Gaile. Hard not to follow all details, you are right about that. It’s a little hard to imagine next year’s Marathon, but some commentators are talking about it already.


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