Shooting again

One killed, three wounded,
the headline said. Obscenely,
momentarily grateful it wasn’t more.
Hating that my brain did that.

What does it take to be a MASS shooting
now? more than 4, more than 14 dead?
Is there a critical mass of dead needed?
Maybe the critical mass of a man-made almost sun
over a Japanese town decades ago.
I think about other kinds of mass shootings.
Oscar Romero, shot during Mass.
One dead, but the course of everything changed
a church turning inward on itself
for fear of an expansive future.
Jews, including, I only know by omission
of their names from future records,
probable distant cousins of mine,
because I was born and raised Jewish,
lined up in front of a pit in Lithuania
and shot, in complete Nazi efficiency
so that their bodies fell into the pit
without piling up too close to the edge
(This scene is not imaginary because a Christian
villager described it completely nonchalantly
to an American soldier in 1945;
we wouldn’t want to have to dig the pit
any bigger then, you know).

The same old same old. Hatred of people
not like us, Jews and gypsies and queers
and none of that has changed since 1945
or 1845 or her and now or whenever;
the current president has only brought out
into the light what has always been there,
what Jews and people of color and queer folx
have always known,
that there are white people who refuse
to acknowledge our humanity, and what
all of us still know and feel in our bodies:
fear of the darkened street after a drink out
when I have gone out sparkly and obvious;
fear of the small town policeman
pulling me over for no real reason;
fear of the people who hold power over my work
whose Facebook page turned out to be full
of white supremacist, anti-gay, anti-Muslim crap;
and nothing bad has ever happened to me personally
except the looks and jeers and namecalling
but you can’t compare trauma and say whose is worse,
fear and contraction have landed in my body
and lie there, festering, waiting to pop up as harsh words
to someone I love dearly, completely without cause;
I want nothing more than to excise them all
all the old words hurled at me, all the looks
from disapproving church ladies about my sparkle
I want to take a deep, long, curved knife
maybe that Biblical pruning-hook
that spears are supposed to get beaten into someday
and carefully carve that pain out of me,
out of my arms and chest and thighs
like the former lover whose pain was so great
she did that over and over, leaving scars on herself,
the only way she could feel alive

I know no way to end this, to stop the cycle
except for all of us, a little bit each day
being kinder to each other,
listening behind the other’s words for their reality

and so I beg you, for the sake of those people
lined up in front of that pit, about to die,
for the sake of the soldiers whose hatred allowed
them to dehumanize people whose religion was different,
for the sake of everyone who has been shot
or beaten or lynched or just given bad looks
for being different, and for all those
doing the shooting and beating and lynching,
see, that’s the really hard part of this,
for all their sakes, tomorrow, and the next day,
and the next, until it becomes in our inner bones
and ligaments and blood an ineradicable habit,
every day for as long as you still are breathing:
just add one more kindness to your repertoire;
restrain the irritation;
smile at the harried mother in the store;
because, I believe, admittedly without any proof at all
except the truth my heart speaks to me
when I lie awake in the middle night
that each smile, each restraint, each kindness
is one less bullet.

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