the things that shouldn’t kill us do

the things that shouldn’t kill us do

billy joel sang only the good die young
and most of my life I have wondered
being good or being alive
which is the better option
the lone gunman always dies
but if he didn’t serve the narrative
he’d be the last one standing, alive
in this day and age
you either stand for something
or you stand for something
or you kneel in the sand
where millions and millions of dollars
chain and bound your hands
and the scariest in all the land walk out
someone probably facebook unfriended me
during those last four lines
but i didn’t realize you were the counting kind
human beings are so transparent
we each have our own xerox machine
recording our own time
the ink never runs dry
and when it does it never runs red or blue
most of the time it runs black from blue
or white from white
can you even recognize that sight
there are some gunmen who never die
like the ones loading dollar bills inside
the chambers of the crumpled constitution
this american dream
is now a waking nightmare
running on phone batteries
and faster wifi
and even basic living is a revolution
we should start our own justice league
the uniform would be simple
we could just show up in the color of our faces
i think all colors, genders and creeds
bleed the same
i believe in civil rights
not civil suits as a reactionary
after this embarrassment goes on the lose
when he should be in the penitentiary
maybe you should be the one to lock him up
you locked him in
to this adult nursery rhyme we’re all living in
did ever single thing obama did
really deserve to die
just because of the color of his skin
we’re not serving a death sentence
life is the sentence
a sentence onto itself
does the affordable care act cover
the years that come off my life
with each thing that doesn’t kill me
but really, in actuality, might
imagine if an infant was born
and the nurse said
“you have 80 years to live
and you’ve lost a day already
just learning to be held”
so if you’re black and pulled over
for a darkened tail light
how many days, weeks, months and years
come off your life hearing the footsteps
of the officer walking toward your window
does it make you stronger?
or does it kill you?
stocking up on tail light bulbs
has become a black life or death decision
and the black lives matter movement
in this country
isn’t the one that needs revision
i wake up and reach for my phone
a mistake i keep making most days
by now you’d think i’d know
having said how much worse could it get
at every previous nights dinner
i read about another you being shot
by another officer who pulled you over
for your tail light being out
i cry black tears from the newspaper ink
onto white paper
is this our only survivable proximity
reading about your death doesn’t kill me
but really, reading about your death
and all the rest
does kill me
there is a gun pointed at me
from a window on pennsylvania avenue
the same gun that’s pointed at you
but you want to school me
that i am upset
that the winning firearm was not my bet
you will never understand
i am convinced
and you want to school me now that
a woman could never even hold a gun
or that the knife she was holding
to protect herself was more dangerous
than the semi-automatic weapon
inside your heart and head
let’s see who’s holding the smoking trigger
when this is said and done
there will be more shots fired before this
american tragedy rolls the credits
and we move on
and more mornings to wake up
and cry about
the red and black and blue
in our streets
that we read about on reddit
and more excuses given
for the white on white
at our sporting events and concerts
because your faces look the same
do you want that gun protected
to protect yourself
or because the lone gunman is rare
in the science fiction of your brain
and do you cash your check from the NRA
before or after kneeling down to pray?
do the victims faces ever look the same
as the people in your life
you wouldn’t want to maim
when more families rip apart
when recreations one by one
become decisions that require more thought
the movies, the school days
the space of your car
the protests, the malls, the city halls,
the concerts
the baseball games, the college campuses
the grade schools
ages 4-10
ages 4-10
and we didn’t understand this equation then
i know we can’t all be great at math
but did we see the same
equation on the board
were we even in the same class
how can we even occupy this same land
the coasts are caving in
the entire middle is a disaster
we could have all seen coming
without our glasses
it is in plain sight that
we’re a country of bullets and flesh
who just haven’t met
and we are colorless when we do meet
like two teenagers across a room
at a high school dance
and we’re a country where time
is running out
and everyone’s clock is speeding up
and everyone’s clock is counting down
is this how you want to be remembered, known
and some are even making excuses for this dangerous twit
if you are, pull up our acquaintance like a weed
make sure to get every last bit
i don’t want it growing back
when you realize the side of history
on which you sit
when you realize that what’s done is done
and maybe you should have given
martin niemöeller’s poem a second run
that there was a choice and you chose this
for all of us
like you would choose a sports team on which to place your bet
and you think we’re just sore losers
who lost our pick
just because we understood the enormous gravity of it
you’ll lose too
and i am logging out of fucking facebook
because we are a country
sitting in the thick
of an inverted revolution
rotting from within
and as some have quoted
the fish rots from the head
and the pastimes, recreations, drives we take
the things that should relax us
the sending of our youth to school
the shopping, the dinner, the honeymoon
now we’re an entire country where
the things that shouldn’t kill us do

©heather petropoulos 10.9.17


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