Mark Doty
In Two Seconds

 

 

                            Tamir Rice,  2002 - 2014

 

 

                                       the boy’s face 

climbed back down the twelve-year tunnel 

 

of its becoming,  a charcoal sunflower 

swallowing itself. Who has eyes to see, 

 

or ears to hear? If you could see 

what happens fastest, unmaking

 

the human irreplaceable, a star 

falling into complete gravitational 

 

darkness from all points of itself, all this:

 

the held loved body into which entered 

milk and music,  honeying the cells of him:

 

who sang to him, stroked the nap 

of the scalp, kissed the flesh-knot

 

after the cord completed its work 

of fueling into him the long history 

 

of those whose suffering

was made more bearable 

 

by the as-yet-unknown of him,

 

playing alone in some unthinkable 

future city, a Cleveland, 

 

whatever that might be. 

Two seconds. To elapse:

 

the arc of joy in the conception bed,

the labor of hands repeated until 

 

the hands no longer required attention,

so that as the woman folded 

 

her hopes for him sank into the fabric 

of his shirts and underpants. Down 

 

they go, swirling down into the maw 

of a greater dark. Treasure box,

 

comic books, pocket knife, bell from a lost cat’s collar,

why even begin to enumerate them

 

when behind every tributary 

poured into him comes rushing backward 

 

all he hasn’t been yet. Everything 

that boy could have thought or made, 

 

sung or theorized, built on the quavering 

but continuous structure

 

that had preceded him sank into 

an absence in the shape of a boy

 

playing with a plastic gun in a city park 

in Ohio, in the middle of the afternoon. 

 

When I say two seconds, I don’t mean the time 

it took him to die. I mean the lapse between

 

the instant the cruiser braked to a halt 

on the grass, between that moment

 

and the one in which the officer fired his weapon.

The two seconds taken to assess the situation

 

I believe it is part of the work 

of poetry to try on at least

the moment and skin of another, 

 

for this hour I respectfully decline.

 

I refuse it. May that officer 

be visited every night of his life

by an enormity collapsing in front of him

 

into an incomprehensible bloom,

and the voice that howls out of it.

 

If this is no poem then…

 

But that voice –- erased boy, 

beloved of time, who did nothing 

to no one and became 

 

nothing because of it –- I know that voice 

is one of the things we call poetry.

It isn’t only to his killer he’s speaking.

 
Found In Volume 44, No. 03
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Mark Doty
About the Author

Mark Doty is the author of three memoirs and twelve books of poetry, most recently Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 2008), which received the National Book Award; School of the Arts (2005); Source (2002); and Sweet Machine (1998).