Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sunday Morning, Cuers, France

in the process of clearing out an upstairs room and getting rid of several years' worth of essays and research from students, I came across a batch of poems I wrote in the late 90s and thought I should let see the light of day (quite literally). I'll present 1 every little 1ce in a while. this one is a poem written about a mass killing in france.

Sunday Morning, Cuers, France

You'd have thought he was hunting birds,

each shot placed just so on an imaginary horizon,

each shot made to count. He worked with the precision of the practiced hunter,

which is what I took him for when he ambled past my shop.

He walked calmly. He wasn't in a hurry. The rifle

cradled in his arms, as if he were working out the best place to find pheasants.

The first to go, of course, was his family--parents, brother--bludgeoned with a hammer,

the way you take care of extra kittens. Why leave them the shame?

An old widow walked her dog on the opposite walk. Her husband had fought

with DeGaulle at Lucerne. I happened to look as a rose opened below her eye.

She dipped to pull up a stocking. Then she was down.

He shot the dog too, although no one seems to have noticed that.

There was a man with a limp, a regular customer of mine,

who preferred the smell of loose tobacco to cigars or cigarettes;

he dove through the glass door of the cafe a little harder than necessary

and went right through the glass. He did not get up.

Even then I had not placed the boy with the rifle.

There was no sound, I saw it all from the window of my shop

as a pantomime. Even then I had not thought to tell anyone what was happening.

It all seemed so familiar. My own boyhood in the fields outside Cuers had included

just this flush, this flash and drop; but here there was no retrieval.

He was well-placed beside the war monument in the square.

One woman, who had bokught a packet of chewing gum from me, and her friend,

ducked, I thought to hide. But when it was all over they stayed put too.

Finally, another man, who played boules with the pensioners for beer,

dropped his ball and his stance. Absurdly, I thought, That's surely a poor way to bowl.

Sure enough, the ball swooped, swung wide, rolled into the street.

The old man lay on his back, looking at the sky. His lips fluttered.

The boy stepped over. He was very calm, very poised.

He put the gun to his shoulder, held his gun steady, adjusted his aim

and fired. The old man's lips were gone, and much of that portion of his face.

Then it was over. The boy moved on, chose the seclusion behind a delivery van

to put the rifle in his own mouth. People cluttered the streets like feathers after a storm.

When I turned to the telephone, I could not open my fists to pick it up.

(photo: eric borel, the shooter)

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