Saturday, July 18, 2015

Lament for the Dead

I was honored to be asked to be part of a national online poetry project this week. Here is how it is described:

"Lament for the Dead is an online community poetry project which will mark the death of every person killed by police this summer, and every police officer who loses life in the line of duty, with a poem. 

"The first lie that hate tells us is that any other person is not as human as we are.
"This project resists that lie by recognizing each other’s humanity, even in the most difficult places."

Go to to read the poems. 

And my poem for Jason Davis, killed earlier this week in Los Angeles:

On Rose Avenue

In our silence when the gun stops speaking,
as the blood’s imperial course
is run, and the ruthless rupture
of a membrane speaks, the witnesses gather,
moon to sun, into a dream of cool unbreaking.

We feel our grief turn into stars,
a tunneling of lead cuts source to source,
the wind grow nameless with this grief,
memory of a rising witnessed rapture.
Rage lives in us for such a taking.

This is not the way to live, to die
with a trigger’s sudden twitch.
This is not the way to die, to live
remembering how autumn takes a leaf
down fluttering into the older death.

In the silence, as our screams call halt
to this invisible, inevitable march,
our days glide on the rivers of their leaking,
a wind, a moon, a sun, our bone a sheath
for the ravages of gun and fragile flesh.

Jason, homeless, frantic in his waving
madness, must have felt the blade
of death glow as he slashed the air.
Nothing anymore will turn fresh
as autumn in a gutshot glade.

On Rose Avenue, no stain is left
to scrub out from the sidewalk crack.
On Rose Avenue, the Taser’s ache
still echoes on. Sunlight twisted
in his hair, there on Rose Avenue.

His home was in the dying bed,
wind, moon, a sun, his bones a sheath.
Thousands now have watched him writhe
online in the silence of an unscreamed pain.
In our madness, guns go on speaking.

This is not the way to die, no home
in memory or sight. Where were
Jason’s argonauts, his doubled courage
shining inward toward the night?
Rage lives in us for this taking.

Has he now in dying madness come
to Colchis for the Golden Fleece?
Passed by the Sirens with their open
eyes and photographing phones,
seeking passage from a voyaging pain?

We feel our grief turned into stars,
see the dead rise up, grow sane.
His home was in the dying bed.
And so we cry for what burns true
on the sidewalk, on Rose Avenue.

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