Friday, January 24, 2020

Seven Songs Sung at Reservoir #4

A seven-part poem,  
Seven Songs Sung at Reservoir #4
was recently published by 

You can find it


About the poem:

Road near Reservoir #4
In 2012, when I heard the news of the mass shooting in the theater in Aurora, Colorado I had just returned to the United States. I spent that day wandering around an abandoned reservoir near Kingston, New York. Reservoir #4.

Near Reservoir #4
Like millions of others, the news filled me with dread, sorrow, feelings of complete and utter dejection, and anger. The insistent howl was: How can there still be no movement on the part of the government to do something about gun control?

At the end of 2012, the murder of preschoolers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut happened. Another mass shooting. Toddlers this time. And I thought: This puts the crisis over the edge, it's clear to everyone that something MUST be done. But nothing was done. Thoughts and prayers were sent.

The juxtaposition between the beauty around the reservoir and the horrifying news scattered me. How write about this?

Forest near Reservoir #4
I had the skeleton of a poem from 2012, but nothing seemed to fit together.

There were 417 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019 alone, according to data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which tracks every mass shooting in the country. Thirty-one of those shootings were mass murders. Nothing had changed.

Hundreds of lives lost. Thousands of lives torn apart.

Du Fu
After the Las Vegas killing spree in 2017 (58 people murdered), I pulled the poem out again, tried to finish it. Nothing seemed to work until I read a David Hinton translation of the Du Fu poem, Seven Songs at T'ung-Ku. I ended up using the structure of the Du Fu poem.  

The Du Fu poem is centered around being far from home, dejection, loneliness, wars in the distance effecting everything around him. The first section goes like this:

Seven Songs at T'ung-Ku


O wanderer - O, all year Tsu-mei a wanderer,
white hair a shoulder-length confusion, gathering

acorns all year, like Tsu the monkey sage. Under cold
skies, the sun sets in this mountain valley. No word

arrives from the central plain, and for failing
skin and bone, ice-parched hands and feet, no return, no

return there Song, my first song
                     sung, O song already sad enough,
winds come from the furthest sky grieving for me.

Reservoir #4

My poem begins:


A wanderer on this path - thousands of miles
from home. Look across the water: the world

on the surface is what is left of the world. On TV,
the endless replay of another shooting. Small fish

move through the dark beneath, carry the dead
on their backs. One dead, two dead, a dragonfly’s

wing-song leads me to my first song sung here,
on the lost art of knowing which stones can speak

the names of the dead, the lost art of knowing what
"home" means, the lost art of gravity…

The rest of the poem can be found
in The American Journal of Poetry