Lucky by Tim Seibles

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


                         After the mass killing at Club Pulse in Orlando, Florida.

 

Rain falls into the open eyes of the dead
Again again with its pointless sound

 
Once:
I thought I knew how to read
this    but I have
fooled myself, afraid to see
this blind lobby, this bad
dream, this thanatocracy that
runs my country.  I remain

astonished
by a certain calculated
ignorance —
in spite of all the grief,
in spite of all the
marches: the idea that
brown skin    is a reason
to stop a life.

So, it remains
hard to be black
here — and, of course, hard
to be female or poor
or “queer” — whatever
your complexion.  Will it
take much

longer?  How long
before we know each execution,
each exit wound
prints the lost blood    
on all of us:

each of us often
alone    opening a door, hoping
to dance with someone
who, for a moment, sees
only the promise of rhythm
holding our faces.

This morning, fresh light
opened your eyes    
and told you
that this is what
eyes do: show the world

no matter what,
no matter how much
we don’t want to see
how life    breaks in,
breaks a day that seemed
like other days: a Monday
when you ran errands
slightly annoyed
by the price of food.  

Then     the TV voices —

adding up “the casualties,”
sorry for “conflicting
reports,” wondering     
what the ____________ community
is feeling     given such
terror, given such a
terrible thing,
given
this systemic insanity
packaged and delivered
as if by secret courier.  

I have been close
to some deaths,
not many.  When that shooter
held the bell tower in Texas,
I was a boy in a city up north,
where boys like me
joined gangs to bleed
each other     and now

in Florida, this — with me, a grownup
in Virginia     and a year ago, nine
black folks shot in their church
by some sick-fuck supremacist,
and yesterday another brotha
murdered by a badge
in Minnesota, Louisiana, Illinois—
this is not bad news: this
is America     rubbing your eyes,  
lighting your whole day with death

and you might believe
that you were
blessed

not to have been there,

not to have your missing face
taped to a wall, not to “know

any
of the people
who died” —

but that’s what
I mean, that’s what I’m

trying to talk about: this daze,
this near intoxication, this

feeling lucky

that the blood on TV
isn’t yours, that you’re

alright — again,
that it isn’t
you again

who’s dying


Photo of Tim Seibles by  Jennifer Fish

Photo of Tim Seibles by  Jennifer Fish

Tim Seibles, the newly appointed Poet Laureate of Virginia, is the author of several poetry collections including Hurdy-Gurdy, Hammerlock, and Buffalo Head Solos.  His first book, Body Moves, (1988) has just been re-released by Carnegie Mellon U. Press as part of their Contemporary Classics series.  Fast Animal, was one of five poetry finalists for the 2012 National Book Award. In 2013 he received the Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award for poetry, and in 2014, an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Misericordia University for his literary accomplishments.  During that same year, he won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Award for Fast Animal, a prize given triennially for a collection of poems. In 2015, Tim chaired the panel of judges that decided the winner of the National Book Award in poetry.  His newest collection, One Turn Around The Sun, has just been released.

Tim has been a National Endowment for the Arts fellow and was also awarded a seven-month writing fellowship from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in Massachusetts. In the spring semester of 2010, he was poet-in-residence at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.  His poetry is featured in several anthologies; amongthem are:  Rainbow Darkness; Uncommon Core; Autumn House Contemporary American Poetry; Black Nature; Far Out: Poems of The 60s; Villanelles; and With Our Eyes Wide Open. His poem “Allison Wolff” was included in Best American Poetry 2010 and, more recently, his poem “Sotto Voce: Othello, Unplugged” was featured in Best American Poetry 2013.

Tim has been a workshop leader for Cave Canem, a writer’s retreat for African American poets, and for the Hurston/Wright Foundation, another organization dedicated to developing black writers. Tim lives in Norfolk, Virginia and is a Professor of English at Old Dominion University where he teaches literature as well as classes in the MFA in writing program.