Gerry LaFemina is the director of the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing at Frostburg State University, where he is an associate professor of English, and teaches in Carlow University’s low-residency MFA program.
Pity the woman on today’s news who can’t forget anything–pinpoint a date, a year, and she’ll say who she was with, the news of the day.
Pity the woman in the hotel lobby holding her head, her visible cheek streaked.
Pity the victim & the witness.
Pity the perpetrator, too, who even as I write this crumples up his guilt & tosses it into the confessional of St. Stanislaw’s.
I’ve seen them all & kept walking, for what else could I do?
I’ve seen the businessman feeding pigeons & starlings at the corner of Broadway & Wall, tossing them the bread of his sandwich.
I’ve seen the way he looked at Trinity Church across the street but, even now, I can’t describe the expression sculpted into his cheeks.
Then came the sound of bells from its steeple in the melody of a hymn.
Then came the taxi that whisked me away from that drama.
Pity the cabbie & his family in the Ukraine with whom he’s lost all contact.
Imagine his wife holding her forehead half the world away.
Then came her tears so much like all of our tears, like all of our griefs & our happinesses, too.
Then came a cresting wave of sirens like trumpets: one squad car. Two. Three. An ambulance also.
Pity the family & the children in the nearby parochial school asked to pray.
Then came the voices of six year olds in prayer.
I’ve seen those kids playing hopscotch & tag in the courtyard at recess.
Imagine to have been that free to laugh.
I’ve seen the ambulances outside the building, a gurney covered by a blank sheet, the EMTs silent.
Then came the sobbing relative consoled by a neighbor.
I’ve been the neighbor, counseled the crying mother of a dead friend.
Imagine me walking with her, her left hand at her forehead, her right hand clutching me, praying or cursing–I couldn’t tell which–in the old language.
Imagine walking the streets a week later, how good it felt, the hot wind blowing on such a hot day.