A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Let the congregation reply—
raise your hands, cry and plead
as we praise the holy names:
Bushmaster, Smith & Wesson,
But you misunderstand this mystery.
In your poverty, you don’t see how I am
your forgiveness of yourselves,
for now and every other time:
Newtown, Columbine, Aurora.
I am resurrected from the smell of gunpowder.
Celebrate my crucifixion
in the crosshairs on another campus.
Recite my name with the saints of aftermath,
celebrate my magic.
When all lie down to sleep, I am
the name history books will repeat.
I will take to myself your children,
your grandchildren. Under tables,
in closets, be at peace. I’m coming.
Yes, I believe the magnum can save me.
I believe the 16-round clip is one
of the five promises of God.
When angels sing, they stand in magazines,
and their voices explode with praise,
scorching wind with the burn.
Gunpowder is a cardinal truth and only
heretics don’t know the difference
between handguns and pistols.
Yes, I believe blowback resurrects
the divine power of the shot
and that breathes life.
Yes, God promises an ever-increasing cycle rate,
and on the day of true believers
all guns will be automatic.
Yes, I believe the right of all to be born
fully armed, loaded and without need
for license. I believe in the bullet.
Images of Civil War
Lights beat red in a Florida nightclub.
Everyone’s skin pulses and bursts. Even
your eyes here with me, miles away.
My heart sinks in Florida grasslands.
I forget the Colorado mountains, but hear
guns in a theater explode. Gun smoke
mingles with the smell of popcorn. Memory
drowns in Crater Lake and I forget
pens and books on the desks, thinking
only of the click of a magazine loaded,
then unloaded. Shell casings clatter by open
lockers. We are weary of this ritual, weary
of its repetition, bodies falling in schools,
in malls, outside homes. Neighbor rages against
neighbor, beaten bloody on his own front lawn.
The Poet as Atheist in a Land of Gun Worship
Every word I would sing bursts
into gunfire. Every image of beauty—
bleeding heart, bark of white ash,
a skyscraper flashing its ice towers
in winter sun—each one and its truth
melts into a rain of bullets.
Each wound opens into a hall
full of the dead and their voices,
their bodies, the stairs we climb,
passing through an incense of gun smoke,
to kneel and look down
the barrel of our country’s altar.
There are no words for this ritual.
There is only the trigger, the magazine,
the feel of the grip, the heft.
Every image that might console
is in the crosshairs—
our pens hemorrhaging.
Copyright 2018 Michael T. Young