We Are

{First, and related enough to make sense: Voting for Clorox's Power a Bright Future grant ends in just a few days. You can vote once a day for any school project you like, and help kids learn better, play harder, or create bigger. It's worth the 45 seconds, promise.}

My baby was one year and six days old. I was a work at a 50's diner in Denver, right across the street from Veteran's Hospital and Bonfil's blood bank. It was a totally normal morning, unremarkable in every way. People came for their eggs and hashbrows and hair of the dog, my breasts ached from the remnants of milk my son no longer wanted, but my body didn't want him to be done with. Coffee flowed, some alt-swingesque band played on the stereo speakers hidden between the vintage lunch boxes that hung like garland on the walls, and two young boys shot and killed 12 of their peers and one of their teacher just a few miles away from us. 

We watched the line begin to wrap about the blood center, then around the building, then around the block. We called home to our children, because on April 20th, 1999, none of the parents of those children could reach the school, their children, or anyone - because no one knew how to handle this. 

Ray sat at our counter like he did every day for 25 years, sipped his coffee like he did evvery day for 25 years, and didn't make eye contact with any of us, unlike he had done for 25 years. I asked him if he was okay and he said two words before looking back down at the clouds in his coffee.

"My granddaughter."

She was fine, victim only to the fear and the lockdown the school went under that bright, sunny, perfectly insidious spring day not so far from Littleton, Colorado that we didn't feel it in our ribs, under our nails, far back in our throats. We were Columbine, and we still are. We all, together, wear that awful, horrible shroud that colors our lives in shades of dark, lurking fear of what could be. 

Two days ago I woke up beside the man I am so very lucky to love, wrapped myself up against San Francisco's bitter winter chill, and set out to buy holiday presents with him together, for our children who have always been an odd, unmatched and indefinable family but are at the cusp of become a real, bonifide, Dapper Dan family. We took awkward kissy my space self portraits, tweeted about our happiness, and in between refreshes of our twitter feed while we stood in line for eggs benedict and lemon apple french toast, I heard my friend, one of his and my first friends, say two words.

"My nephew."

She said more words than that, but I didn't hear them. It was 1999 all over again, I was too far away from my own babies, and this time it was 20 children. These children were just beginning school, not ended it. It isn't Columbine but it is in my jaws and my stomach. It, this, it keeps touching my life and I know, I KNOW, that it isn't for one moment about me - I am not burying my baby tomorrow, I didn't in 1999, and I most likely never will - but this has knocked the wind out of me. 

I am frantic to help. I am numb and I am aching and I don't know what to do except to write it out. 

I was Columbine and today I am Noah. We all are. We are Noah, and Newtown, and Birmingham, and each and every one of the children in this country who has died in their school or in their church or one their front porch for no reason whatsoever except that someone decided they should.

VDog asked me to help gather up some poems that her sister in law, and the other mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers could read tomorrow as the services for the children begin. Audre Lorde is tearing at the back of my throat, waiting me to stand on a corner and scream her words, as angry and broken today as they were in 1963 when four black girls died for daring to be black and go to church:

He is forver trapped
who suffers his own waste.
Rain leaching the earth           for lack
of roots to hold it
and children who are murdered
before their lives begin.

Who pays his crops to the sun
when his fields lie parched by drought
will mourn the lost water
waiting another rain.
But who shall disinter these girls
to love the women they were to become
or read the legends written beneath their skin?

We who love them remember their child's laughter
But he whose hate robs him of their gold
has yet to weep at night above their graves.

But I don't think that will help my friend and her family find peace in their mourning. So maybe you could leave a link to a poem you love, one that brings you peace, or speaks of the light every child on earth shines which should never be extinguished. They would like to read poems at the services, and find comfort in them during the dark times that are about to come. 

Other ways to help:

And if you are able, please consider leaving $1 for VDog's nephew's service and burial. A whole lot of $1's can make a massive difference. The family needs time and money to heal. $1 really does help. Thank you.

If you would like to send notes, cards, sympathies, flowers, or any other physical items, Friends Of Maddie is gathering and distributing all items to the family of Noah Pozner. Friends of Maddie is the non-profit set up in loving memory of Madeline Spohr, another angel lost to the world, and to our corner of the blogosphere, all too soon. 

You can pray. If you don't pray, you can think reeeeal hard in their direction. My friend, VDog's friend, our friend Dawn of Kaiser Mommy has posted prayers in Jewish (Noah is Jewish) and in Christian (is that what you call it?) and since I'm an atheist I'll just jump right in and say that it doesn't really matter if you actually pray or not, and it doesn't matter if there is a god listening on the other end. What matters is that we take all the long and stregth and glimmers of hope that we can muster and shove them east. What matters is that our hearts are here to hold theirs, and each others up. Call it what you will. 

We are going to get through this. We are going to find a way to make sure this is the last time this happens. We are not going to be complacent anymore, and we are going to keep our schools and churches safe for our children.

We are.

We must. 

On 30

I really wanted to give some sort of eulogy to the past 30 years before I was done with them, but then I remembered that Audre Lorde had already done it for me.

Haunted by poems beginning with I
seek out those whom I love who are deaf
to whatever does not destroy

or curse the old ways that did not serve us
while history falters and our poets are dying
choked into silence by icy distinction
death rattles blind curses
and I hear even my own voice becoming
a pale strident whisper
At night sleep locks me into an echoless coffin
sometimes at noon I dream
there is nothing to fear
now standing up in the light of my father sun
without shadow
I speak without concern for the accusations
that I am too much or too little woman
that I am too Black or too white
or too much myself
and through my lips comes the voices
of the ghosts of our ancestors
living and moving among us.


Hear my heart's voice as it darkens
pulling old rhythms out of the earth
that will receive this piece of me
and a piece of each one of you
when our part in history quickens again
and is over:


Hear
the old ways are going away
and coming back pretending change
masked as denunciation and lament
masked as a choice
between an eager mirror that blurs and distorts us
in easy definitions until our image
shatters along its fault
or the other half of that choice
speaking to out hidden fears with a promise
our eyes need not seek any truer shape-
a face at high noon particular and unadorned-
for we have learned to fear
the light from clear water might destroy us
with reflected emptiness or a face without tongue
with no love or with terrible penalties
for any difference
and even as I speak remembered pain is moving
shadows over my face, my own voice fades and
my brothers and sisters are leaving;


Yet when I was a child
whatever my mother thought would mean survival
made her try to beat me whiter every day
and even now the color of her bleached ambition
still forks throughout my words
but I survived
and didn't I survive confirmed
to teach my children where her errors lay
etched across their faces between the kisses
that she pinned me with asleep
and my mother beating me
as white as snow melts in the sunlight
loving me into her bloods black bone-
the home of all her secret hopes and fears
and my dead father whose great hands
weakened in my judgment
whose image broke inside of me
beneath the weight of failure
helps me to know who I am not
weak or mistaken
my father loved me alive
to grow and hate him
and now his grave voice joins hers
within my words rising and falling
are my sisters and brothers listening?

The children remain
like blades of grass over the earth and
all the children are singing
louder that mourning
all their different voices
sound like a raucous question
they do not live in fear of empty mirrors
they have seen their faces defined in a hydrant's puddle
before the rainbows of oil obscured them
The time of lamentation and curses is passing.

My mother survives
though more than chance or token.
Although she will read what I write
with embarrassment or anger
and a small understanding
my children do not need to relive my past
in strength nor in confusion
nor care that their holy fires
may destroy more than my failures.

Somewhere in the landscape past noon
I shall leave a dark print of the me that I am
and who I am not
etched in a shadow
of angry and remembered loving
and their ghosts will move
whispering through them
with me none the wiser for they will have buried me
either in shame
or in peace.



 

 

And the grasses will still be
Singing.