H e a r t S o n s & H e a r t D a u g h t e r s of A l l e n G i n s b e r g
N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 4 : A r c h i v e s E d i t i o n
Before and Since
Before my first panic attack in a massive library far from home,
there was only slight uncertainty,
and what held me close to the earth was a teacher:
classes met, patterns of literature were discussed,
and all multiple choice questions had specific answers.
Well before the suicide bombing in a Jerusalem market in July of 1997
where I witnessed people plagued with blood and shock,
and some with death,
I sat with a teacher quietly in the woods of Montana.
He taught me how to read a topographical map;
he made the landscape discernable;
he showed me that all paths were clear,
but the map went no further than Montana.
Before I watched a 19 year-old jump from a 16th floor window,
before I took notes from victims of violent crimes,
or examined my first crime scene of an attempted rape,
or examined the ballistics of brains blown out,
there was a teacher who,
from the balcony of a private school,
smiled as if he knew the world to be a good place,
and I believed him in his smile.
Before I stood lost between up town and down town New York City
on September 11th, 2001
as I watched the towers burn and people jump,
there was a teacher who made life sound simple:
“An honest man bets honestly,” he said.
But I, like Diogenese with his lantern in the morning hours,
have found no man honest.
Since anthrax dispersed further fear upon Manhattan,
since the Washington sniper took aim,
since the terrorist cells too close to my flat in Britain were discovered,
Yes, since then…
my teacher had the gall to ask,
“What happened to you since high school?”
[Originally published in NHS 2010, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs10/index.html.]