“Proximities” Lia Purpura

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When Wrong Place & Wrong Time Means Forever

coffee

Gun violence. Poetry. Yes, please, to some sanity. I just finished Joseph J. Ellis’s new book, American Dialogue, where, among other interesting things, he traces the history of the Second Amendment, which was, according to the Founders, all about militias vs. individuals, not that this stops some people in modern-day from rewriting history.

Ellis goes in-depth on how the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia did just that, painting himself, as many others presently do, as a Constitutional “originalist” when he was anything but (that is, if you care, like Ellis, to look at the actual facts from the time of Madison, Jefferson, and Adams).

Once upon a time, even the NRA was a noble organization dedicated to hunting and gun safety. Given the Rambo-style, political leadership that has hijacked it and runs the show today, the NRA of old seems like a quaint fairy tale now, as we read yet another story in the news about senseless shootings in public places.

Why is it that we endure gun violence in society like no other modern nation on earth? Why is it that we endure pain and death and fear? Why is it that we re-elect politicians who offer thoughts and prayers instead of solutions?

The poet Lia Purpura gives these questions some thought in ways that most of us would rather not. We read her poem “Proximities” and realize that we all have lines we could retrace in our every day lives — from last year, last month, or even yesterday at a coffee shop, in a movies theater, at a night club, or in a school.

This is true whether you are a law-abiding gun owner (and I know many) or not. It’s being at the wrong place at the wrong time, a quirk of fate that no citizen, no matter what his political stripes, should be subject to. As Purpura puts it, quite simply, “It’s never a joke / to walk in or out of a shop / unharmed.”

Here’s praying for practical solutions, then, ones that will address the issues while still respecting the rights of hunters and other gun owners who are all about gun safety, not blocking common sense legislation to protect Americans from routine gun violence. It would require profiles in courage from unexpected places (Congress), but I’m convinced it can be done. It has to, or else matters will only gets worse…

 

“Proximities”
by Lia Purpura

A man walks into a coffee shop.
But it’s not a joke.
I bought coffee there
last summer.
Small, with milk.
It’s never a joke
to walk in or out of a shop
unharmed. It’s easy
to forget
you aren’t a person
being shot at.
I’m not.
I wasn’t, though
I was there,
last summer.
Not-shot-at
and I never knew it.
Did not once
think it.
Thinking it now
the moment thins,
it sheers,
and I move back to
other coffee shops
where I never fell, or bled,
and then
I sit for a while
with my regular cup
and feel things collapse
or go on, I can’t tell.