When I was little
My mom listened to NPR in the morning
And I could listen to horrible things
Car bombs and war
And I was fine.
I could hear them
But I couldn’t comprehend them.
And I hated the people
Who turned off the radio
When they reported the dead
Or who watched America’s Next Whatever
When the news had something to say—
How can you hide from tragedy?
How can you disrespect the dead
To not hear their stories?
But as I grow up
I’m beginning to understand
Of reading down past
The newspaper headlines
The devil is in the details
And the pictures.
Tragedy is just that—
How do you deal with that?
It is so hard
To open my ears
To the cries of a world
Mourning countless deaths, wrongs, unhealable wounds
Because it means
Opening my heart as well.
That’s gonna scar.
The mute radios
And the distracted TVs
But I can’t let myself
Hide from the stories
I have to hear them
These stories need to be shared
These dead need to be mourned
By those one mile away and those on another continent
By those writing eulogies and those listening to them
We need to come together
So that there isn’t a Next Time
To remind us again
What we should have done Last Time
I’m older now
And I’m beginning to understand.
These stories can make me cry, now
But they connect me to the rest of humanity
Pulsing with the same grief, rage, confusion
I cry with a chorus of millions,
And from that chorus blossoms the strength.
If this wound must scar
Let it at least be one that reminds us to love
Instead of one that drives us to hate.
I would cry harder
If I were a person
Who couldn’t understand at all.
This poem has been building inside of me for a while now, ever since the initial Ferguson shooting and riots, but the recent Charlie Hebdo attack got me to put it down onto paper. I honestly believe that these tragedies need to be talked about, that society should put a premium on acknowledging them instead of hiding from them. I don’t think we should dwell on tragedy, but we all feel these horrific losses, and if we as a world could come together in mourning and stay together afterward–that might be a step toward peace and tolerance.
I know it’s not that simple, but I wish it was.