This lament was written to the prompt of a black and white photo depicting a waterfall with rowboat suspended as if weightless at its base.
Color me grey. Remove gravity. Add rushing water, but make it still. Strip the leaves off spring trees and tell them to rustle. Pick the ants off fists of peony-buds so that the flush of pink stays tightly balled inside. Put one paddle in my row boat instead of two. Hide all partners. Put sky in the water. Remove sky from above the horizon. Dangle untruths like earrings on beauty queens. That old saying, “If you piss on my foot and tell me it’s raining, it ain’t raining,” comes to mind. Gravity might have governed once. Now we float above institutions and look down and wonder how they ever worked.
We ready ourselves to row and row hard, really put our backs into it, only to discover that there is only one oar. The old push to get out the vote is so cute anymore. The sticker on your lapel not a badge of much if your vote can so readily be thrown out. Men on the national stage are pledging to do just that and they’re not laughed at or removed with a cane.
One Texan speaks up and makes good trouble. He’s not even shouting. The armed men on stage point and holler with a Klan-like vicious unity. Get out! Get out! Get out! A Texan in a blue oxford shirt surrounded by arms raised, cameras filming the moment of infamy. Theirs, not his. Get out! Get out! Get out!
The water of time keeps falling over the ledge. So there is gravity — just not in America — where up is down and down is up and nothing rushes anywhere except violence. DNA of grieving parents required to ID some of the ten-year-old bodies. What does that tell you?
It almost sounds like armed officers escorted the shooter inside. You’re not “containing” anything if the perpetrator is locked in a room with an entire classroom of kids.
Why won’t shadows behave anymore, as in calling evil evil and not publishing a nuanced view of evil’s view of good. The Fourth Estate. Give me a break. Get in your boat and row. With one oar, you’ll go in circles, illuminate nothing, perpetuate everything.
The sidewalk rolls up in protest. A press conference of lies. Parents demonized instead of the supposed good guys with guns called out for their cowardice.
Beer bellies hemmed by holsters. Angry men raise their arms and point. Get out! Get out! Get out! as if demanding answers was the problem and not a room full of dead fourth graders and their teachers.
I hear the children playing at the near elementary school the day after and wonder, Have they been told, and if so, how, in what words, with what omissions, and with what false assurances of safety.
How the mind splits. It happened to them. It having happened to them means it can’t happen to me. Nice try. The Boulder shoppers gunned down at one son’s regular grocery store. A man shot in front of my brother’s Glendale pharmacy, the flowers lining the sidewalk in ineffectual witness.
What did their parent tell their elementary-school-aged children when I can’t even tell the story to myself?