I don’t like poetry. It is at once anachronistic and a dominant means of communicating in the contemporary era. Go ahead and consider social media as a never-ending circulation of shitty haikus and test your ability to unthink this consideration. I’ve met some people that called themselves poets and while I didn’t hate them there was something trite about them. They were too well rounded for me. If you’re going to be a poet at the very least be self-destructive.
The same goes for song. I think it is rare that lyrics of songs rise to the level of beautiful. There are exceptions of course but on the whole I think it’s true that everything too stupid to be said is sung. It’s banality across the board from Radiohead to Toby Keith.
So please forgive me for what follows. It is not a poem or a song. Try to think of it as a prayer or an invocation.
In my previous post I made reference to two children, Brissenia Flores and Lilly Mederos, who were murdered alongside their parents by right-wing militants in the borderlands of Arizona. These events are distant enough in time that whatever spirit that flesh might encompass has migrated, disseminated or ascended. And if there is no such thing as spirit become flesh then perhaps it can serve as an invitation to the spirit of the age to pass on and allow those people it hasn’t ushered to their deaths to live in a better time.
While the U.S./Mexico border itself has been used as a murder weapon for decades, with the desert sucking life out of the desperate as they cross from one horror to another, there are occasions when it bestows its stolid murderousness upon the stupid, the ugly and the cruel. And it is two distinct instances of this that I want to write to, two times that the right wing milieu collapsed into its most distilled ethos.
Killing sprees happen all the time. Most of them involve intimate and familial violence. They aren’t limited to the idiots who sieg heil for their daily hit of dopamine. People get hooked on all sorts of hate. It is a crack-rock of an emotion but harder to quit and eventually paid for in blood.
The perpetrators of these acts don’t deserve to be memorialized but neither do they deserve to be forgotten. They exist in the middle-ground as a warning that won’t be heeded by those who would most benefit. When history repeats itself I don’t think it necessarily repeats itself as farce. Sometimes it’s a tragedy all the way down.
While not a generally accepted position I was overjoyed when Shawna Forde and Jason Bush were sentenced to death. I hope they are terrified. I hope it hurts. As for JT Ready, who shot himself in the head when he was finished murdering the people who were crazy enough to love him, I am denied the satisfaction of imagining the interminable moments that must stretch before a person as bureaucracy moves them towards the stretcher on which their vile heart will stop beating. I don’t believe in hell but I’d like to.
I taught a class on the border region when I was still impressed with myself. I am not a quantitative scholar. I’m not a scholar at all. But when I was good at teaching I felt that I was really good at teaching. So I didn’t speak to the unique beauty of the bioregion or the art and craft of fire mapping. Instead I spoke to the other ecology of the desert, in which desperate humans migrated through a landscape that kills without discriminating between the lucky and the doomed.
It was important to me that we discussed these murders. There was something quintessential about them. They captured the brutality of the politics that the border engenders and illustrated the bleed between the state’s monopoly on violence and the eager subcontractors who literally volunteer to deliver it. Some of the young people in the class would have to excuse themselves. Others cried openly. I was concerned about those who did neither. What else do you do with the thought of a 15 month old executed by a middle-aged man? Get angry I suppose. That would be another appropriate reaction.
The sprayed down and sanitized images of children suffering alone in detention is only one step removed from a cristalnacht of unabashed murder. The armchair warriors and internet turds of the 21st century are only one bad cable line-up away from a spree killing.
And so I offer a prayer for two murdered children, a prayer that is too little and too late.
Darling, I hope you came to yourself with the morning forgotten. Don’t worry about what I’m referring to. It’s not important. What comes next, that is what’s important.
I hope you found yourself at the mouth of a canyon. I hope your father was holding your hand. If he had other matters to address then I want it to be the gentlest of beings by your side, a luminous woman who knows you well, and I hope you can tell by her smile that she is yours and yours alone.
I hope you walked bravely with your bare feet in wet sand. I hope the animals of dusk marched before you, the mighty and the meek alike and that you could see how they swayed to the rhythm of secret music. If it is Jesus who you believed in and who you knew to love you best then I hope he led the parade.
I hope the stars burned most brightly for you, that the milky way shimmered and waved and rearranged itself to smile upon you, that the gentle lion and ferocious lamb came alongside you as you began your march into the purple night and that the shining eyes that opened as you passed did not scare you. Their owners only wanted to see how lovely you are.
I hope that the music swelled as you walked into the nightlands and that you found a door that shimmered, engraved in gold and lapis lazuli. I hope that it opened to you. I hope that you found you had wings, feathered and translucent, and that you anointed yourself in the rising air, your attendants laughing and roaring at your ascendance.
I call you Saint, patroness of children who deserved better than they got. I hope you received your tiny sister (of course you did) and that you carried her down the canyon yourself this time- that you shushed the animals so that she would not be afraid and then took her on her first flight.
Darling, I hope you remember nothing of the sounds and sensations that came before this. I hope you arrived in your sister’s arms. I hope she glowed for you, the softest and yellowest green and that her face was warm against your cheek.
I hope you were washed in the water that you were walked through and that it was warm, that the grime of the world drifted away towards the endless ocean as your angel beat her wings to dry you.
I hope the lion offered his flank and the sheep offered hers and that you slept a million years to awaken to a different life, a different womb. I hope the greatest of mothers gave the gentlest of births and that she cradled you closely, offered the sweetest milk and that when you’d had your fill she let you drift. I hope that you found four dimensions in your drifting and that you move through them all at your leisure.
I hope that your mother glows for you, wraps you in her endless arms, keeps you warm, keeps you fed. I hope that the greatest and the smallest come to delight you and that they sing you songs of their travels. I hope that you grow slowly in your wisdom (there is nothing so scarce nor so abundant as time).
I call you Saint, patroness of the innocent in a guilty world, a surfeit of luck is owed to you and may you claim all of it.