June 13, 2016


At the Concert for New York City in Madison Square Garden five weeks after 9/11
Richard Gere stood in front of millions of viewers and said,

We have the possibility to turn this horrendous energy we are all feeling
from violence and revenge
into compassion into love into understanding.

he crowd booed him, loudly, as if to say, Hey, Buddha Boy,
we will not be caught dead acting like Jesus Christ.
As if Christ only published concepts he wanted us to thump instead of experience.

Granted compassion is a wounded word. It gets
banged around in the junk drawer.
It is not an entitled driver / would not survive in California.
Compassion is often the last player picked. So maybe
Richard Gere should have used the word *rest* to suggest that we curb the poison of reacting so fast.

But journalists insisted / Richard Gere’s proposal for love and understanding was the wrong time, wrong crowd, wrong message / I remember being 27 / watching this / feeling / like some fathers do not tell their sons I am proud of you / like an entire city / had learned the language of a well-disguised suicide / smothered in clever headlines and a swarm of stagy news reporters / who failed to mention that a French man named Antoine Leiris / lost his wife and the mother of his child
— with whom he was madly in love — to the terrorist attacks in Paris last week.

It was no more excruciating than what happened in Baghdad,
Beirut or the West Bank during the same 24 hours.
The difference / is that 5 days later / Antoine Leiris was the only man
to post a love letter for his son on the BBC,
an open message to those responsible for killing his wife.
He looked directly into their hungry little pain-bodies and told them
I won’t give you the gift of hating you.

*Pussy.* *Pathetic propagandist.* *Candy-ass liberal.*
The insults that followed Antoine’s moment of peace made me realize that Love – wounded a word as it may be – Love can see all of it / but Anger – anger is only concerned with what it thinks is fair / narrow like the barrel of the NRA / like the blueprints to Russia’s femininity / to China’s childhood / to North Korea’s private parts / to the bruised music of the Confederate Flag states still singing like a drunk Englishman in a Tibetan monastery / loudly / louder / Hey! / I’m the Over-Compensator — The Great Annihilator / Cross me and you will know my pain.

In each of us
lives a
small man
with a
good heart
and an
ego the size of

Y’all, why are we not fighting fire with water?
Compassion will not make us lazy.
It is okay to cross these borders.
It is okay to stay awake
to love our own ignorance
enough to look at it square in the wise guy,
in the bright side, at the parts we are terrified to acknowledge
because of the work it will probably cause us

because there is a chance we have been our own terrorists.
There is a chance we are a failed relationship.
There is a chance / that every single day
you are part of the reason
millions of animals actually weep before slaughter
and you do not get to make up for it
by watching adorable YouTube videos while stuffing your face with their death.

It is more than some sellable cliché
that – through these bodies – we are rooted to the same source,
that we have arrived on this planet to experience form.
Now that we’ve had some time to do that, please,
let us reintroduce the idea of questioning *everything.*
Excessive packaging.
Breeding. Identity. Fining people
because they didn’t have enough money in the first place.
Everything impractical to the eradication of suffering.

Like denying refugees.
Like putting a fence around freedom.
Like the oceans of care we keep for this world
getting so landlocked in our chest
that when the answer tries moving / over all the God dams /
built across our flooded hearts / to surprise us with consciousness
it might look like we are spitting back entitlements / at the earth.
Stay still. Gather your wits. Find their ends.
Pull out the slack and say clearly —

Yes. Compassion.
Love. Understanding. Go ahead.
Call me another cliché. Stick your violence in my meditation.
The worst you can do to me for not joining the gangland war on Christ’s behavior / is shoot me in the look on my face, the one that says I am not afraid to understand you / or to stop you.

In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle describes us as the noisiest humans in history. Some things
do not need to be fact-checked. Stop backing up so loudly. You screaming siren on a cell phone.
You heavy-footed upstairs neighbors / Bloated bodies of anger / belting out boos / the size of Madison Square Garden / rejecting Richard Gere / who I know very little about, but who I suspect / like most humans / is part–saint part–fraud
and who reporters had to admit rebounded rather nicely
when he acknowledged that what he had to offer
was apparently unpopular right now

Like taking away your child’s assault rifle.
Like the color white. Like the color brown.
Like supporting the man in Nigeria who found the cure for HIV.
Unpopular is compassion. Like a savings account in Greece.
Like the topic of trafficking Stockholm Syndrome
all the way back from New York City
to right here down the West of me

where I am determined to see all of it / because I do not get to go blind again / not without carving the word *coward* in holy braille /on every pen / I will ever use / to point out how pain / cannot digest love / It works the other way. My body / no longer loves writing poems for mass consumption / It does not believe in blowing apart / But I am still right here behind its habits / stacks of grinding teeth / and a mashed-up forehead of rolling credits / working / to see all of it / which I suspect is more productive / than giving you the gift of my hate.