reading a book of poems from an era of struggle

The poets were great, or good, or not so good. But poem after poem told of murder.

I read through so much blood, words of fire, that I had to stop, feeling something touched, burning, that hadn’t been for years, decades maybe. I don’t read much poetry—maybe it’s that—no resistance to the word well used? Yes, but what can always make us weep? Death, of course. I wept and discovered I was weeping not for all the death they waded through in that time when I was a child and saw nothing: Mississippi Little Rock Birmingham Selma Memphis Harlem Detroit Watts Attica – but because we are dead, and we’ve been dead since they died in hate and fire and that time was not redeemed by any law that papered over our failure to grow deeper, wiser. This culture died then, this nation if you have to have one died then, except as a place to make money. No mission now but money, no justice now but money no collective destiny no vision just money driving us to claw and pull in all directions, pretending this is what life is, farther apart always till the gravity of shared humanity is finally broken. Like the universe ripping, but it’s happening here first: we are avatars of dark energy.

And we have only trivial things to say to one another about this because the only heroism the only greatness the only ecology is profoundly collective and we are now individuals, and dead ones at that.

It’s no use looking at it otherwise, and I’m sorry we’re dead, the dead are always sorry to be dead. What people call happiness is being ignorant of this knowledge, what we call resistance is defying it.

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