This life—O, how much more of it remains? The night is brief.
Toward those short trees, we saw a bird, descending with our grief.
Chris Hixon, Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel vanished in the day.
Luke Hoyer, Meadow Pollack, Carmen Schentrup went away.
Helena Ramsey, Alex Schachter, Jaime Gutenberg:
alas their lot, they left in winter, sunlight still a blur.

And Cara Loughran, Nicholas Dworet, they were cut off,
like Joaquin Oliver, who too untimely had to fall.
Alaina Petty, Martin Duque Anguiano gone,
along with Gina Montalto, we will not hear their song.
Alyssa Alhadeff departed, as did Peter Wang;
short February this year seems intolerably long.


Bruce Dale Wise is a poet living in Texas.

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16 Responses

  1. James Sale

    This is a very powerful poem, Bruce, and I think the best I have yet read from you; it is epic – the honour roll call – and yet concise at the same time; and the final line is brilliant: intolerably long indeed.

    • Mr. Wise

      I thank you, Mr. Sale, for your praise, it is hard won;
      “I think I will not hang myself today,” ah, Chesterton.

  2. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Had there been an armed person to stop the killer, perhaps this fine poem—which draws its force from its very brevity, symbolizing the brevity of life—never would have been written.

  3. Leonard Dabydeen

    A strikingly poignant, emotional roll-call poem to treasure the seventeen people who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting. Powerful write, Bruce.
    Please allow me to share my take on this tragedy:

    Parkland Massacre (Florida, 2018)

    When you can’t share a smile on Valentine
    There’s reason to believe Life’s lost sunshine;
    When sound of fire alarm comes to your ear
    There’s reason to believe your time is near.

    When you’re set for learning at M.S.D High
    Seventeen have lost their lives, oh, we sigh!
    When the AR-15 slugs closed their eyes
    Parkland echoed the world at their demise.

    When common sense wails for some gun control
    Echelon bureaucrats smirk at the toll;
    When parents and their loved ones say, “No more”
    They envisage a world ne’er seen before.

    But parents must not sleep without resolve:
    Affirmative action is to revolve.

  4. David Watt

    Bruce, this is a moving tribute. The inclusion of the seventeen people’s names brings poignancy befitting this tragedy.

  5. David Paul Behrens

    A very powerful poem about the Parkland shooting, Bruce. Thank you. Here are a few which I wrote following other such tragedies:

    WHO CARES? (2017)

    Say your prayers and mourn the dead
    But much more killing is still ahead
    As long as guns are in our lives
    Only a random number survives

    Empty words are always spoken
    As the heart of society is broken
    Many say all we can do is pray
    Save legislation for another day

    Second Amendment is a suicide pact
    Now is the time for leaders to act
    And do more than just offer prayers
    Show us which of you really cares

    HO-HUM (2015)

    Another mass shooting, ho-hum
    Life in America is so humdrum
    Be proud of the land of the free
    The land of deadly opportunity

    Born with a right to own a gun
    Get prepared to duck and run
    Never knowing when bullets may fly
    Going to school means willing to die

    Another normal day in America land
    How many more deaths can we stand?
    There seems to be no end in sight
    As long as owning guns is a right

    Second Amendment must be removed
    So life in America can be improved
    Most politicians are nothing but scum
    One more massacre, oh well, ho-hum

    GUN RIDDLE (2013)

    Two men meet
    Walking down the street
    Each sees a gun
    On the other one

    Each becomes frightened
    The paranoia is heightened
    So each draws a gun
    And shoots the other one

    Hey diddle diddle
    Solve this riddle
    Two men meet
    Walking down the street

    One has a gun
    The other has none
    Which one is dangerous?
    Which is safer for us?

  6. Mr. Wise

    I did not want to write this poem. For some time I had been avoiding this news story. When I finally did focus on it, I approached the tragedy looking at the perpetrator. But after I had written those lines, I thought, What about the victims? So I typed all of the names out—as Mr. Sale has pointed out, “the honour roll call.” From there, the poem took over. Mr. Sale and Mr. Harris kindly noted the last line, which I think was actually the fourth line written. As the poem progressed, names and phrases jostled for position, until I was “satisfied.”

    I hated to write about this event, and despite Aristotle’s note about purging oneself of such events by dealing with them linguistically, I wrote a more upbeat poem about “Guyana” to purge myself of this event.

    Ancient Greek dramatists wrestled with tragedy from “myths,” so they could work abstractly with such wretched material [an exception is Aeschylus, in “The Persians”]. But in this era we have so many events occurring diurnally to choose from, it is overwhelming. I really hate such senseless acts, and I have always hated Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” mainly because of its random brutality. Yet, from Homer on, literary artists have dealt poetically and prosaically with such violence, such evil.

    Ms. Foreman and Mr. Watt have noted the poem is a tribute to the victims, and indeed it is. I think it is the poet’s duty to remember, that is, to memorialize that which is worthy of remembrance, and certainly their lives are worthy of that.

    Mr. Mackenzie noted that the poem draws its force from its shortness, symbolizing the shortness of life. The opening two lines, using the words “brief” and “short” to contrast with the final word “long,” are actually revisions of haiku written by Shiki (1867-1902), the Japanese writer and literary critic, who died early, and suffered long from tuberculosis. Notice the tripartite aspect of those lines. Partly what drew me in to haiku was the number of dead, as Mr. Dabydeen and Mr. Watt pointed out, seventeen, and how short haiku are to begin with.

    Obviously it is a topic many people have been thinking about poetically, as can be seen in the lines of Mr. Dabydeen and Mr. Behrens, who focus on both action and inaction. Finally I thank Mr. Yankevich and Mr. Southerland for saying the poem was good. I think what little goodness there is in it comes from poetically facing the event. I just prefer the intellectual and the mundane, the happy and the fun. I don’t like finding the good, the beautiful, and the true in tragedy, because it is so hard.

    • Leonard Dabydeen

      @ Mr. Wise

      Happening Now (a tetractys)

      your heart
      tap dancing
      to the rhythm
      let your mind play with the good, bad, ugly.

  7. Debbie

    So sad that there was another such incident. The news has become so horrific, I refuse to watch. I got rid of my TV a couple years ago. Hearing about such terrible incidents through well thought out poetry such as this gives me enough to know what is going on without the non-stop media coverage of it. Thanks for sharing this~Debbie

  8. Leonard Dabydeen

    Cannot help myself ….

    (by Leonard Dabydeen)
    Injustice (fib)

    keeps nagging
    your boiling entrails
    the hurt rumbles like volcano.
    The ache of inhumanity
    cries for ahimsa
    world of hate

    Hate (tetractys)

    sleep at night
    ghosts haunt your mind
    shadows of hate are your worst enemy.

    Corrupt (tetractys)

    so cold
    so corrupt
    cannot thaw, chill
    hate speaks to his bowels without discharge.

    Guns (tetractys)

    fire control
    spit bullets that kill
    innocent lives screaming before they die.

  9. Ruel Widee Bacus

    Thanks for the tetractys.

    by Ruel Widee Bacus
    for Leonard Dabydeen

    The land of many waterfalls, like dropping Kaieteur,
    that rush in brilliant, giant columns, crashing through the air.
    The world’s second tallest, wooden church, St. George’s site,
    designed by Blomfield, is one-hundred-forty feet in height.
    In sports, Guyana’s cricketers compete on Windies team,
    the seven curry dish is served with rice or roti steamed.
    Out in the west, Roraima is Guyana’s highest point,
    upon the border of Brazil, to Venezuela joined.
    Most of the people live along the northeast coastal plain,
    with sugar, rice and gold, the country’s greatest export gain;
    Although much of the ocean coast below sea level lies,
    the Dutch-constructed kokers help protect against the tides.
    Though Walter Raleigh never found where Golden City was;
    today though crime is rampant there, there’s El Dorado Rum.
    And Parliament is pink and white beside palm trees and grass,
    while flags of red and gold and green, flap lined by white and black.

  10. Damian Robin

    Above is mention of the shortness of Mr Wise’s poem and the Japanese haiku; how these relate to the shortness of life and the number killed randomly in Parkland; that ancient Greeks grapeled with tragedy and myths, put in inverted commas, as have authors since then; and that there is violence and evil in such events.

    ‘Memorial’ by Alice Oswald is a part translation of Homer’s Iliad, published in 2011 by the UK-based Faber and Faber.

    It can only be considered a part translation as it is selective, choosing to deal with those killed in the book, how they were killed, a bit of family background, and smilies from the book to link these short obituaries or death descriptions.

    Mr Wise’s ‘The Parkland, Florida, School Shooting’ is a similar approach to dealing with a nearer tragedy.

    Alice Oswald’s introduction states “Matthew Arnold (and almost everyone ever since) has praised the Iliad for its ‘nobility’. But ancient critics praised its ‘enargeia’, which means something like ‘bright unbearable reality’. It’s the word used when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves.”

    She goes further, saying she leaves out narrative “as you might lift the roof off a church to remember what you’re worshipping.”

    I think this describes what Mr Wise has done in this poem. There is much power in simply naming. The closeness in time to the event means we can read the poem without a gloss. In the future, the context may have to be re-iterated.

    But, right now, the holding of real beings, souls, away from the mess of ‘ordinary’ brutality can indicate the heavenly or god-like nature of the lives taken.


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