Among School Children
Another poet of far greater art sang
of sacred fame and dying young—how
good, he said, to die so young while
laurel wreaths were crisp and green and
winning still so fresh. Yet there
is another death of children—the one that
no matter how you count never is outweighed
by the probability of pain and sorrow that
surely arrives in later lives,
as another poet dirged of prison house
shades closing round. We sometimes
call these surprising, accidental deaths
"acts of God" because somehow
sense is made of acts otherwise senseless. If,
we think, these are acts of God, then, we think
there may be some larger plan; at least, there
is one to blame. Yet,a tornado appears as tornadoes do,
apparently randomly but by nature determined,
and wipes whole neighborhoods, even cities, and persons
old and young and places we think of as
safe—homes and churchesmosquessynagogues—
and schools. Schools where possibility reigns
and hope takes wing and children learn to sing.
Cut off, yes, unbudded. Cut off, yes,
but not, I think, by act of God.
Rather by that strange condition of our world—
This is the human condition.
This is the world we live in.
This is the world where things happen. And yet,
still we choose to live where we do, and
where and how make a difference.
We know these patterns,after all,
yet still we build in the path of winds, the
direction of tides, and the shakiness of earth.
And among our fellow humans so bright of
mind and dark of soul.
God, I think, would have it
otherwise. It was, I think, the original
gardener's plan to keep all safe but, then,
what difference would anything make?
(What difference would it make had there
been no forbidden tree?) What
difference would it make to know that all
are safe—a good difference, we think. We
desire such safety for our children.
A friend said, “Arthur, I anticipate an elegy from
your pen mourning another loss of children in a school.”
And, Arthur says, I wish I could write of love and loss
in ways that make sense. (I wish I could make sense
of most of what goes on in life.) I wish I could make
sense of death at any level, age, or circumstance. I
cannot. I cannot make sense of Moore or Sandy Hook or
Columbine or Boston—except to understand that somehow
this is the world we live in and to look deep into
the human soul and its potential horror.
give myself to something more than the horror—the
unbearable lightness of that soul and its beauty—
and hope that somehow in the
greater scheme of life’s despair,
good is called forth and we will be better—
but hope is fragile, as another poet said, “a thing with feathers.”
Another said that “poetry makes nothing happen”
even as he conjures the poet to “In the deserts of the heart/
Let the healing fountain start" to teach us “how to praise.”
Poets seem to find the words—it is what
they do—to free us from “the prison of our days.”
I think I am not a poet.
—amk • 5/24/13