Gerry LaFemina

Up Early, I Turn off the Television News
August 18, 2022 LaFemina Gerry

Up Early, I Turn off the Television News


High tide of sun curling & breaking onto the hardwood
so many fragments of light; coffee fragrant from the kitchen


where the cats mewl coolly by their dishes.
Later, they’ll return to their dreams of fresh kills—


feather remnants or mole entrails scattered on the couch,
evidence of another violent yet typical day,


I’ve seen the way they pursue chickadees come spring.
Even my petty cruelties of callousness & ingratitude


go without acknowledgment or absolution.
Half a world away, in the name of some rebellion,


a belt explodes on a bus, & the young boy holding onto
his mother doesn’t have a chance


to cry or call out when her hand is blown from her wrist:
before he can process this absence his body is


buffeted by shrapnel & shattered metal. Maybe
he was lucky to die with her touch,


her enduring maternal presence, as his last thought,
to be going out with her, to be happy…


The street littered with shards of aluminum & window pane,
each licked by light til they became glowing splinters.


Did the driver think in that moment he could no longer control
the vehicle about the day’s ordinariness to that point,


about the traffic & his boyfriend’s near-daily complaints
about watering the plants, or else about his last compliment.


The three old women on their way to market who’d watched
it all, the concussion echoing until it became one


with other conflagrations, other carnage in memory,
how calm they seemed on television, discussing it


until I realized they were most likely in shock,
the way they didn’t seem to blink or look away from the camera.


If I saw them interviewed, no doubt, so too did the conspirators
who must have congratulated themselves, clapping


without any cruelty in their celebration,
maybe even firing Kalishnikovs in the air, all of them, that is


but one, who perhaps heard about the young boy & recalled
his own son who’d died among the clashes


after another rocket barrage, the shocking detonations.
His desperation a valley with a dry riverbed at its bottom.


He’s come to believe in little. Not the U.N. or the benevolence
of American presidents. Not the god of his collaborators.


He no longer believes in poetry, doesn’t buy into
the righteousness of the cause, for the cause is death. For him


hope is now either an oasis or a mirage
in the long desert history has become, the same


landscape of his forefathers, & the inheritance he’ll leave.
Still, the sun, unmediated & complete, eases above


the dwindling olive groves, the withered fig trees of his wife’s family,
above, too, the refugee camps & outdoor markets


where feral cats stalk the stalls for mice & scraps,
where street children forage for sweets or coins,


silvery warm as a distant star, & above the antiquities dig
so much like the one on the Discovery channel last night,


where archaeologists dusted sand away from
the mummified remains of an ancient grave site &


the voice-over explained how the team worked
puzzling together a narrative from the smallest pieces,


how the split bones & broken spears showed
these were victims of some great & ancient sorrow.

Gerry LaFemina is the author of numerous books of poetry, fiction, and criticism, and in 2022 he will release two books—his first book of creative nonfiction, The Pursuit: A Meditation on Happiness and Pop & Hiss: Selected Punk Poems 1990-2020. He’s a professor of English at Frostburg State University, a mentor in Carlow University’s MFA in creative writing, and the singer and principal song writer of The Downstrokes.