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Homegrown Demons

April 22, 2007

American Mayhem

Roaming the world
Seeking monsters to slay,
Americans are always shocked
To find what’s in a neighbor’s heart—
The quiet, seething boy
Possessed by homegrown demons
And armed with a homemade arsenal…
The road rage driver…
The jealous, zealous lover…
The brother screaming mother-f-er…
The dude with an attitude…
The Duke with his dander up…
The gunslinger at high noon…
The madman with a gun…

Virginia Tech
University of Texas
Red Lake
Los Angeles
Nickel Mines

Shootings in schools seem particularly cruel. So, of course, are shootings in any peaceful setting—a city street, a hotel, a motel balcony, a post office, as in my town:

March Madness

Bam. Bam.
Four men shot dead.

A fifth lies still
with two bullets in his head
trying not to twitch
until the intruder leaves
the neighborhood post office.

Rumors of a shooting ricochet
through newsrooms miles away:
murder and mayhem in Montclair.
I call home; no one answers.
From newsrooms across metro New York
journalists who roam the world
to cover wars and disasters
rush home to interview their neighbors
and check on their own kin.

Massacre in mediatown—
picturesque Montclair, New Jersey.
A dozen television cameras converge
on the flowery plaza opposite
the grotesquely spot lit post office.
The mayor appears amid the massed microphones
to express the shock of suburbia.

When captured, the shooter is found
to have grown up around the corner,
attended local schools,
and worked for the town DPW.
With a pistol bought like popcorn
at a shoot-‘em-up action flick,
he slipped under America's defenses
pointed outward to fend off
the evils of the world.

R.I.P. Ernie and Scott,
who cheerfully sold me stamps,
asking how things were going.
R.I.P. Bob and George,
who walked into the Watchung Plaza
post office at the wrong time.
Hang in there, David, who
miraculously survived two slugs.

But for fickle fate,
coulda been me:
What? Why? I’d have
screamed in my last breath
as a vaguely familiar figure
executed us in a row on the floor.

(from “Earth Songs: New and Selected Poems”)

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