rock.jpgOn days like this one, the River of Constant Thought that cuts a reliable, refreshing swathe through the heavy jungles of my brain... shuts off.  I can't remember things.  I can't think of a better word for "things" than "things."  And it irritates me.  Thus begins the derision of my personality, the degeneration of my spirit.  It's a painful spiral, and it requires a revolution (and all the fear, guts, blood and near-calamity that a revolution must entail) in order to prevail.
 
The River stops.  The sound of it, clear and inevitable, is gone from the air.  The water remaining between the banks is stagnant.  
 
My Creative Soul stands at the water's edge.  Yesterday, this spot was beautiful.  Of all the countryside in my head, it was the place most worthy of her setting up camp.  She had planned to commune with the sprites, exhale epic poetry, and skinny dip in the evening with fireflies glowing around her.  She had decided to swim the width of it every morning, drinking in huge, nourishing gulps with each stroke.
 
Those plans are in vain.  The sun permeates my eyes and beats on Her head.  With no clean, cool place to strip and bathe, She hides.  From Her hovel she watches the still water darken, murky with mud, warming.  Mosquitoes spawn and swirl above the water, humming as they search their blood radar for my Soul.  For a moment she contemplates slathering herself with mud, an ancient insect repellent... isn't it?  But she can't remember.  That fact, or the proof against it, is downstream and dying. 
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VT Vigil.jpgOn April 16, 2007, a young man, a college student, an English major, carried out the bloodiest school shooting in history.  His name was everywhere in the months that followed.  He will not be named here.  He didn't deserve what amounted to fame for his crime.  In fact, simply acknowledging that he set some sort of record on his rampage (killing 32 people, Virginia Tech students and professors, and injuring many more) means that the bar has been raised for the next maladjusted student with an axe to grind. 
 
So, understanding that possibility, we come to the alter of an age-old debate.  It involves the Second Amendment.  It involves the basic self-preservation instinct.  It involves statistics (which I loathe) and emotions (which I thrive upon).
 
Should college students be allowed to carry concealed weapons on college campuses?
 
In Utah and Colorado, legislation has already passed which allows licensed gun owners to carry their weapons at school (on select campuses, for now).  Several other states have declined such legislation.  But grass-roots student organizations are bouncing up all over the country, and the members are calling for their right to defend themselves against potential on-campus violence.
 
Today, CNN.com ran a story about one such group hailing from the University of Cincinnati.  Students Want Chance To Defend Themselves.  The profiled member, Michael Flitcraft, a 23-year-old sophomore, was noted as "a leading advocate for college students to carry weapons on campus...organizer for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus."
 
It's not an excellent article, but it is at the crux of all the posturing and protesting which has erupted around this issue. 
 
On one side you have the students who are afraid of being the next helpless victims of another tragic school shooting.  On another side, you have the campus law enforcement officer who doesn't think allowing more guns into the increasingly strained environment of a college campus will solve anyone's problems.  And finally, you have the other students, the ones who want schools to remain "gun free" and peaceful.
 
No one can win this fight.  Can they meet in the middle?
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Blackeye.jpgPreface: The video described within this blog posting is heinous and hard to watch. It turned my stomach. For that reason, along with the reason behind my thesis found herein, I ask that you do not seek out this video.  It's unnecessary, at best.  At worst, it has the potential to spawn other similar acts of violence among our youth.

Recently, six teenage girls in Florida were arrested after allegedly luring a fellow student to a private residence and then proceeding to beat the young woman until she lost consciousness.  Twice.

Described as "animalistic" by the media, this beating was documented on video by one of the assailants.  So, it isn't really "alleged" at all.  It's fact.  Faces, names, addresses.  A girl was beaten bloody by her peers... and now we can see it happen.

Over and over and over again.

You see, this video is evidence of more than the crime itself.  It is evidence of intent.  YouTube was the goal.  The cheerleading squad took issue with something a fellow student said on MySpace... and, instead of ignoring it or confronting the issue with the involvement of principals and parents, decided to pummel the perpetrator until she begged them to stop.  And then some.

In an alley?  Behind Wal-Mart?  In the Weinerschnitzel parking lot?  Oh no. 

"If we do this, we need the proper lighting... that way we can put it on YouTube and get a million hits!  Tiffany, how about your house?" 

No really, that was the plan.

Ignorance is the perfect climate for the mold of violence.  Only a stupid girl would be moved to violence because she was insulted on MySpace.  Only an idiot would record her own crime on video and then want the world to see it.  Only the most ignorant people are unable to comprehend the necessity of basic humanity in every instance.  Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, countless slaveholders throughout history, school shooters... and now a Floridian high school's cheerleading squad.

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This return to purity
--a slow, redundant walk
through mud I will always
know--
is cherished by the
most masochistic part
of my spotted heart.

The hot water bubbles
and makes me think
of gluttony
--the starving man's
delight.

But rising again
from the steaming bath
my shoulders burn
with the scalding necessity
of spotlessness
--before You.

And I step out to make
the loop of life
again.

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Thumbnail image for tireswing.jpgThe digital clock in the truck's dashboard flicked over to 7:41 as I pulled into my parking space.  Already the sun's warm fingers were prodding me to roll down the windows and roll up my sleeves.  I wished I'd hadn't tossed my shorts aside in favor of jeans that morning, but quickly remembered the reason.  While the heavy denim wasn't a good match for the heat, it did serve to hide the smudgy bruises which now dappled my pale thighs.
 
I popped open my morning Diet Coke and relished the sting of carbonation and cold against my teeth, screaming down my throat.  Not the most wholesome breakfast, to be sure, but I needed the caffeine.  I hadn't been sleeping well, a side-effect of my summer job that would never leave me completely... but that's a different story.
 
At 7:45, I swung myself out of the truck cab and strode across the street.  The high, delightfully savage noises of children at play came tumbling over the blue fence that surrounded the playground.  On good days, like this one, Connor's au pair had already whisked him into the school yard and seated him on his favorite bench.
 
I pulled the curve-topped gate open, noting the familiar creak as I stepped inside.  Once in, I subconsciously lifted my Diet Coke and purse up above my head as a gaggle of five-year olds gushed around me, the unwitting boulder in their oblivious stream.  A normal morning.  Laughter and hopscotch.  Mathew and Bradley bounced a ball between them.  Darby and Reagan, little tomboys, raced up ladders and down slides.  Dannica, Kelly and Megan were all-business in the "kitchen" of the playhouse.  Dillon and Dylan were in timeout (again) for insisting on waging a play war between the sandbox and the monkey bars.
 
Connor was slumped on the bench, bright pudgy knees splayed out and his round face upturned towards the trees.  He was quiet.  I lowered my arms and walked to him, though slowly.  This silent moment would be our last for the day.  I took careful note of his marker-stained fingers, pulsing to a rhythm sounding only in his mind.  His plump pink lips worked at the air, absently sucked in between his teeth and then popped back into a pout. 
 
His blue-green eyes wandered with the morning breeze and landed on me.  The switch in his mind flipped.  He was up and pointing.
 
"Audrey!"
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dark, reflective
pools rest between the rocks
damp afterthoughts left
by the repetitive motion
of ocean waves
against a cliffside
where concave pockets
in the black, saturated stone
hold the mud-based nests
of soft, swooping swallows
like hope between
prayer-pressed palms
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