there were no palm branches
for us to wave this sunday
in the middle west
the sultry spring air
gave way to rain
and thunder rumbled on
in continuous argument
against the cold invading air
with which a lingering shade of winter
stung our shoulders.
the lightning snapped and seared
the darkening sky
we started, startled by
this sudden brilliance
in the black

three died today
— oh, and thousands more —
but three in my little sliver
of suburban safety
shot God knows why
by God knows who
death’s the debt all men pay
but the way we go
is always a surprise
and the time seldom
what we should choose
if it were a matter of choice
every instant a final breath
for someone somewhere
this one could be mine

i have been watching death
from the sidelines
smelling its stench
tasting it, in a small way
as it rots all it touches
and people buckle under the weight
of eaten-out emptiness
i feel its fingers on mine
teeth gnawing at my grip
as i hold on for dear life
why do i have to be
the strong one, i ask
when i’m no more than a weakling?
how do flaccid hands heal
fragments of shattered soul?

they can’t, i conclude —
life must come from life
light must kindle light
without You i am death
without You i am darkness
oh save
oh save
oh save