Another senseless shooting

All I can think to do is repost a poem I wrote after another mass shooting, that one less deadly by a factor of 10 times.


Saguaros stand on Sonoran hills
like a million men and women.

Anyone will tell you that
as we all recognize the familiar form.

Upright beings with arms
waving friendly how-do’s

arms hanging down
reaching for guns

arms up mean don’t shoot.
Saguaros, too, fall down dead.

Saguaro sounds like sorrow.



I type my secret code
like the nine-thousandth name
of an inconsequential god

to unlock the place
where I can tap out these words
straight from my heart

to your brain, or the other way
around. No more endless variations
on the names and dates of

my three grown progeny, now
it’s a mnemonic based on the name
of my first book, fruit of

a different kind of labor,
how you may come to know me,
no fig from a thistle.

Three Photographs (from the Vietnam War)

Driving south on Highway 89
along the west shore of Lake Cayuga
from Seneca Falls to Ithaca,
listening to a thin crackle of radio
before it’s lost beyond the hill:

Ken Burns is telling Terry Gross
the story of the Vietnam War
in three photographs —

A South Vietnamese general executing
a suspected North Vietnamese spy
just like walking down the street,
the moment the bullet strikes the brain

(why were we there, taking sides?)

A naked girl on fire, fleeing
her napalmed village

(the futile horrors we inflicted)

A young woman crouched over her dying friend,
shot by the National Guard at Kent State

(the war against our brothers and sisters at home)

and I say we and our because to seeing photos
on the front page of every hometown newspaper
made us all complicit in the violence.

Photo published for Opinion | ‘The American War’: Kent State was originally a footnote in Ken Burns’s documentary. Then...


The future is a projected cone of light

We hurtle toward but never overtake,

Demarcated by rhythmic slashes

Thin and white, evenly spaced

Like so many routinary, endless days.

I focus on light and night, known and unknown,

On trajectory and stopping distance,

Until the startling flash of your green eyes

Grabs my attention for a treacherous instant

And registers on the insidious device

That tracks the pulse of my heart’s desire.