Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Leonard Gontarek: Sanctuary

My name is Leonard Gontarek.

I survived the attack at the Grand 16 Theater where

Trainwreck was playing. I gave it 3 out of 4 stars.

I had cheese on my popcorn. It looked

in the dark like a bucket of tiny Trumps.


I survived the attack at The Pulse nightclub.

I love dancing. Gang of Four and Talking Heads.

When I dance I leave my body

like a ghost exiting a cemetery at night.

Sometimes it is good not to be ourselves for a while.


I survived the attack on the Amish school

at West Nickel Mines, PA. Often I can tell

if someone is a good person. I can see on their head

a halo. It is in the shape of the hats Amish women

wear at the farmers’ market. I see it on the heads

of women and men alike. It is accompanied –

the vision – by the singing of children, the beautiful

singing of children.


I say survive, but none of us survive

the strange miracles of this country,

where the ground leaks dried blood

at dusk, where people look at us strangely

when we kneel down on it to pray. People look at us


strangely when we lie down to kiss

the earth that we love. When we lie

down and disappear into the ground,

we can no longer see them look at us.

The bare trees fill with birds. They want

to be flowers when there are none for us.

Copyright 2017 Leonard Gontarek


Leonard Gontarek is the author of six books of poems, including, Take Your Hand Out of My Pocket, Shiva (Hanging Loose, 2016) and Deja Vu Diner (Autumn House, 2006).

4 comments on “Leonard Gontarek: Sanctuary

  1. Drew Miller
    January 4, 2018

    Thank you Leonard for your lifelong commitment to poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. T Martin
    July 14, 2017

    I like this poem for its relation of survival to experience. I find this compelling as I often consider the variation in how experience dyes us, transforms us – how do we relate to singular, traumatic events vs daily, almost repetitive events. I also greatly appreciated “sometimes it is good not to be ourselves for awhile” and the closing.

    Something about this poem reminds me of another of his (https://www.cleavermagazine.com/night-is-longer-a-poem-by-leonard-gontarek-featured-on-life-as-activism/), which is probably my favorite

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim Brennan
    July 3, 2017

    After spending two weeks in Hungry, Slovakia, Germany and the Czech Republic where men and women bled and died in the streets for their independence, Leonard’s work is a fresh reminder of how complacent we’ve become in the freedom we wear every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. NINA
    July 2, 2017

    This is such a moving and powerful poem. We need this. We always need this. But we need it more so right now. Thank you, Nina

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on June 13, 2017 by in Poetry, Social Justice, War and Peace and tagged , .

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