[Barely 72 hours ago, Garissa University in Kenya became the latest site in a long line of terrorist attacks, with 147 dead. Less than 48 hours ago, Paris joined the list enduring horrific terrorists attacks that will reverberate for years. Ask New York, Madrid, London, vacation spots in Bali and Egypt. It’s always a wake-up call, but I’m left not understanding the motives and intentions, merely the fear and helplessness. I’ve tried to capture those feelings of fear and helplessness in the face of a terrorist attack, as a means of understanding. And, ultimately as a prayer for peace. The attack in the poem is the armed siege of Columbine High School by two teenagers.]
I. Allegretto marcato
of disordering. Alone,
this plaintive quaver of alto
flute succumbs to the dissonant
landscape of Amériques—
Edgard Varèse’s percussive polyphony
of whip and slap-
The lion’s roar emanating
from horse’s hair.
The pitched continuum of sirens
to the report of shotguns,
propane bombs, pipe bombs, fire
bombs. The muted tympani
of tumbled books hitting their spines and splaying.
The rattle of embedded glass
in slammed wooden doors. Glass shrapnel
rapping the cinderblocks.
For twenty-three minutes
in Amériques, thirteen percussionists
are gathered and spent.
II. Adagio moderato
My little brig
of cinder-brick shrink-wrapped in reflective
stark cream, lit with the mosquito-frequency
hum of sputtering fluoro-bulbs.
Orange-peel plastic chairs at the ready.
Each with a pressed-wood writing board—
a splinted wing not covering: knees,
restless thighs, hems of shorts.
The heavy airlock door opens to adolescents
skulking the viewless hallway avoiding
this windowless cul-de-sac. An open eye
porthole in the door stares out
on the ramped passage; or in.
The pushpin and yellowed paper boast
posted protocols above
a dozen shelved, corner-curdled texts;
III. Andantino con dolcezza
loose illegible pages,
the shed aspen leaves screen
the woven and split chrysalis;
an emergent Rocky Mountain
Parnassian. Pupil-less eyes-spots
peer from unfurling grizzled sails
seeking a meadow-breeze bright
with the wafting essence of the Alpine
Dwarf Columbine. Lavender and white
leaning from its pedicel—
a pedestal for an apollo
siphoning the perennial liquor.
This substantiated butterfly,
with a flutter,
releases two feet at a time;
crescendos on an updraft
to layers soothed
by the lion-pawed edelweiss.
[Check out other original poems here.]