Sunday, November 8, 2009

I am innocent of the blood of this just person

This impotent wakefulness. Too early, sitting here in my sweats, eating apple pie for breakfast with a strong hot cup of coffee. My hands are cold. Matching my heart this morning. Watching the last leaf twist at the end of a branch in the now-bare maple. Sleep-deprived. No radio, no TV, no newspaper. I rub my hands together but they're not gonna get warm today. Where does this anger come from? This unease. I'm trying to locate that subsistence level of consciousness said to lurk below language as I work my way through the successive stages of accepting the insanity of the world I inhabit. But it's not easy to forgo words. Madmen who kill. Soldiers who die. Guns everywhere and no will to limit their ownership or their use. Even now, shortly after first light, I can hear gunfire down at the shooting range off Canistear Road. Fun.

More than two million people in jail and the death penalty on the books in two-thirds of our states. Fat lot of good it does -- our murder rate is still more than twice that of any other Western democracy. Murder in Texas, murder in Orlando. Murder in Cleveland, murder in Brooklyn. Murder in Parsippany, murder in Detroit. In the
New Yorker, Jill Lepore writes about murder. Everywhere you turn, bloody bodies. The movies? Murder. The idiot box? Murder. Standing in line at the Shop-Rite checkout? Murder and mayhem. And the other night some wheezing ghoul representing the NRA comes on the phone to ask me for my support against gun control. Glassy-eyed pundits chatter about success and happiness, about freedom and wealth. Irresponsible talk. Death is the common denominator here in America, not the power of positive thinking. Bones everywhere, red man's bones, black man's bones, white man's bones. Violent death. Carrying off the young and old, men and women, sometimes the rich, but mostly the poor. Carnage on the highways, bodies behind the drywall. Gangs. Police boats out on the river, their divers searching for bodies below.

Yet even today, down at Our Lady of Carmel, Father Tom leads the congregation in the creed. "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty." There are always a few loud, clear voices to be heard among the low murmuring. Ardent believers or show-offs? The servers, two sleepy teens in ill-fitting cassocks, a boy and a girl. The boy picks at an acne scab, the girl rocks ever so slightly on her heels. The world outside is on fire. You can smell the effin smoke. It is time for Father Tom to wash his hands. The girl collects the lavabo bowl, pitcher of water, and towel. She turns and brings them over to the priest. He nods to her and performs the ablutions. The world outside is on fire. The sheep are about to be consumed. This is my body. This is my blood. Always someone getting murdered. You think my hands'll get warm if I hold em over the fire? I don't think it'll do any good.

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