Mass Mourning

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by Karina Lutz

(Originally published by Visitant, and to be included in Preliminary Visions, forthcoming from Homebound Publications.)

we cracked.
Poured out into the streets
to mourn the measure of our losses,
flooded houses of worship,
in parks held candleless vigils:
wicks couldn’t hold a flame through the driving tears.

A man (he must have heard the news
of this latest senselessness on the radio)
opened the door to his car and let the stored tears
burst into the gutter.

It wasn’t the first time we’d wept:
one time, even a President’s voice had cracked.
The mothers of pistol fodder,
the police fodder, the invisible until shot,
have been crying since ‘emancipation,’
and of course since long before, each time a mate or child stolen,
each time a massacre, a genocide occurred or obscured.
Churches had had cry-ins
at the still smoldering buildings:
and when firehose water was not enough,
our tears quelled the last of the embers.

In Colombine and Newtown,
we wept in schoolyards.
Jackson State, Kent State, Virginia Tech.
Whole communities:
Aurora and Oklahoma City and Orlando.
We stopped counting.

Surely individuals, unreported, standing,
had cried into their TVs until they shorted out
one war or another,
having given up pounding the top of the set
with their sore fists.

But this time the dam broke.
Even the color guard snapped,
laid down their rifles, kneeled over them
and cried until they washed away.
The streets were finally, literally
flooded. We couldn’t stop mourning.
The anger, the blame—now useless.
The stoicism, the cynicism—stopped.
Eyes widened, then squeezed.

Wailing, like you hear some cultures do at funerals.
Wailing, like cops’ sirens, like an ambulance.
This time it wasn’t just our own,
it was Beirut and Paris, Syria and Iraq
Iran, Vietnam, Hiroshima, Bosnia
Korea, the Congo, Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Libya,
Guatemala, Libya, again
All the places we have bombed:
Bikini Atoll, and other obscure places whose names
we can’t pronounce, places we can’t find on a map.

Finally it hits us:
How many have died?
How many loved ones and strangers?
How useless the violence has been!
Children gunned down—motive unclear.
Who to hate? Who to fear?
Children abused
women and men raped, queers bashed
all the techniques of torture and terror–
no sense to be made–
no sense

But this time even the children refused to fear
just cry.
We all refused to fight back,
for who else was left to attack?

Just cry.

Rivers overflowed and washed through Walmarts.
guns floated and sank, war games, too.
Warhead silos, rusty already, filled to the brim.
Still we couldn’t stop.
We could feel how related we are to all
we had destroyed, we ripped our garments, tore our callouses
off and cried,
it didn’t matter anymore, we were all so related,
out in that field beyond right and wrong.

There was a little calm there.
We began to connect,
little smiles of recognition,
our ancient faces, our child faces showing through
the bitter mask of this life.

Then it got worse:
we remembered the species
extinct or nearly.
A woman opened the door to the natural history museum
and the dodo bird
all the taxidermy
horn of black rhino
bones of whale
began to float, still float.

Gale winds sprung the zoo and the factory farm gates open
the wailing now howling.
All kinds of eerie voices added in:
the cry of a baby coyote separated from her pack,
the cry of a swan who’s lost a mate,
a loon’s ancient echo off a lake.

Our sorrow multiplied,
but we carried it for each other.
Our hearts squeezed, throats squeezed
then opened
like a spigot
like a fire hydrant on a hot day
in the city.

We walked through our tears
until we could gather and see each others’ faces
washed clean and open

and we listened again
to the sound of the loon
as she landed
on the lake we had made.

Karina Lutz is a writer, editor, teacher, and lifelong activist. She helped secure passage of sustainable energy legislation, thwart a proposed megaport, and restore wetlands in her home watershed of Narragansett Bay, RI. In 2013, she received honorable mention from Homebound Publications Poetry Prize for her manuscript, Preliminary Visions.

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