Early Tuesday morning, a dear member of our Hineni community who lives in Chicago, and is a wonderful poet, alerted me to the unfolding tragedy in Highland Park, Illinois. Another mass shooting, this time at a Fourth of July parade that I remember attending growing up on the North Shore of Chicago. I did what so many of you did as well – I turned on the news – to see the horrific scene of abandoned strollers, spilled blood on the pavement, and the interviews with traumatized survivors.
I called my cousin, who lives in the area, only to find out that her daughter and son-in-law, along with their two precious little boys, had been at that parade. They heard the shots, saw bodies going down, and fled.
Thank God they are physically ok although we now know that
seven eight others died.
If I still lived there, I would have driven over to at least sit with them as they waited in lockdown for the danger to be over. I raged some, on Twitter, about another shooting, at another place we thought was safe.
Now we have to add “July 4th parades” to the list that includes elementary schools, grocery stores, synagogues, and churches – in the last few months alone!
I didn’t know what to do
Seeking some solace in our garden, I felt helpless and without any words that could fix anything. As I sat there, I began to notice the cheerful birdsong of the chickadees who just love to eat at our feeders.
Unbidden, fragments of a poem came to me. As I have learned from my dear talented colleague Rabbi Pam Wax, this outpouring of phrases can be seen as a “first draft” – to be refined as days go by, as I try to capture the feeling of both the joy of these little birds along with the distress in my heart.
Poetry may not fix the world, but reading and writing poems can absolutely be a balm for the soul.
I am excited to continue to craft this poem, in Rabbi Wax’s upcoming course: The Write Prescription: Poetry as Spiritual Practice which is starting next week on three consecutive Tuesdays. You can click here to get more information and register, as the space is filling up. (Some of you may have been to the wonderful Poetry for Healing and Hope program featuring Rabbi Wax a few weeks ago.)
The chestnut chickadees chattering have no idea
that they just
apprehended the guy
who shot up the
Fourth of July parade
They are oblivious
as they stop to take a little sip of the refreshing water
my husband set out for them in these drought-filled days
They – who fly so freely between our feeders without a care –
they don’t know
that I’ll never go to downtown Highland Park again
without thinking of those murdered & terrorized
on this day celebrating our freedom.
What is freedom anyway?
I grew up going to that same parade –
never imagining it would become a scene tarnished
with the blood of innocents.
These flying delights
have no idea
that their song
has carved a space in my soul as I worried all day
about my niece
who threw her body down
upon her two little boys after hearing the
pop pop pop
& then ran with them
I send silent prayers
to my family and all those who were there
from afar –
May the sound of their own chickadees
soon drown out
The noise of horror
from this day
May angels surround their beds tonight
and every night
singing sweet songs of protection and blessingץ
July 4 2022 (draft)