Category Archives: bop

Echo Taps

Today is Memorial Day here in the USA.  For the past couple of years, a local group has taken  part in an effort called EchoTaps – making a line of bugle players across town, from one cemetery to another, playing a chain of “taps” one after the next.  They do it in November for Veterans Day, but to me it would be just as appropriate for Memorial Day, remembering all those who have died in war, and all the families and friends who have a hole left in their lives.  It is always a moving experience to stand out on our street and listen.  I tried to catch a little of last year’s event in this poem (the form is a bop).  Here it is, for all who remember today…

Echo Taps

All the way to school, we see the small flags
stuck in the ground, each with its own number,
planted with dignity in stony soil,
anonymous integers adding up
the cost of sacrifice – a mother’s tears,
an empty room, a raft of nights wide-eyed

each one unique in this unbroken line.

Flag number thirty-nine is on our block.
I clutch my arms around me in the breeze
and watch a kid dressed in his Sunday best
hold his horn, fingering it nervously.
From some distant point, taps is echoing
towards us, from one player to the next.
A car pulls up, and the driver gets out.
We all listen, heads bowed, to the bugles,

each one unique in this unbroken line.

At his appointed time, our young man plays
the aching beauty of an elegy,
gone far too soon, swallowed up in the wind.
This singular loss is enough for me,
a tiny glimpse into the greater pain,
and pride, of every family that serves

each one unique in this unbroken line.

 

Death in the pot

It’s been a rough week in the neighborhood.  We had a grade-school kid collapse on our lawn after experimenting with synthetic marijuana.  Then a spate of gang-related graffiti, including some of the most disturbing racial threats I have seen.  What really set me back in the end was the way none of this even phased me.  I just carried on as if things were normal.  Which I guess they are.  No outrage, no compassion.  Just a kind of jaded indifference.  I don’t like to think this the is person I am becoming.  Something has to change in this neighborhood – and maybe it’s me  Maybe you can connect with this, in some way.  Anyway, I wrote this bop as I reflected on the experience of these days.

He couldn’t have been more than twelve years old,
face down on our lawn, strung out on K-2.
Out of nowhere there were three police cars
blocking the street, soon joined by a fire truck
and a white ambulance. Then came the crowd,
the shouts, the knowing looks, the same old dance.

Something has to change in this neighborhood.

Overnight there was fresh graffiti sprayed
on our neighbors’ garage – a racial slur
with a threat. The City sent a young man
to take photos. He hardly said a word.
It all just felt so completely normal:
cops on our lawn, the n-word three feet tall.
It wasn’t until my son said to me,
“I’m scared to be outside,” that it hit me:

Something has to change in this neighborhood.

Suddenly I’m angry. Seething at the
drug pushers, slum lords, smug politicians,
most of all, myself – for falling asleep,
dulled by twenty years in one place, until
I don’t blink when a kid might be dying
on my doorstep. There is death in the pot.

Something has to change in this neighborhood.

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