Originally posted in 2004. Revised many times since.
Do you recall
Maggie Apple lying in the street
with her eggshell nails
and her skinny legs with the calves that looked
as if they’d been attached to her bones
as an afterthought?
Do you recall old Ronald Wrong
whose house smelled of wine but
looked like a glove full of bees,
so when they banged down the door
and a host of trouble
flew out of its ramshackle fingers
they shot him as if he were
a queen, a danger queen?
Do you recall
any of those salty throated boys and girls
who put their breath in just the wrong place
at the wrong time so that magic stopped working,
and they died like the rest of the pack?
Tonight the same lights flashing,
the same crowd gathering: the names
must be changed to protect the names alone
because the innocent are never saved.
One could say
just happen; or
one could say
that the way
the boy is crumpled
leaking onto the floor of
the stairwell is irrelevant, or that
the cop’s statement
that he thought he saw
a gun was relevant.
If one could find the CD
the boy was said to be holding
when he was shot, one could see
if the subject matter of said CD
included guns or shooting
and thus was relevant.
If one could be objective about this
one could make up a simple song
to commemorate the event.
It would have a short verse and
the chorus would be over
in a heartbeat.
He was alive,
now he is gone;
smart kid who did
That’s not enough.
Fell down the stairs.
Bullet inside him.
Gun or wallet.
CD or knife.
Wrong place and time.
So much for life.
if he had only known what was going to happen,
he would never have gone up to the roof at all?
they post those doors for a reason, and what
was he doing there in the first place?
When the people who live there say,
going to the roof? Everyone does that.
It’s a quick route to the next building, you say,
well, that’s not supposed to happen…
Do you recall Maggie Apple,
red sand bag
in the street?
Do you recall Ronald Wrong
stung by bullets,
tumbling off his porch?
Did you forget all those kids?
did you forget
how they leaked out on TV
in front of you sitting there
do you pretend
not to see that
something must depend
on this happening
or it would not happen
You wring your hands,
hum a little shame song;
then, you swallow.