Eighteen black chairs on a concrete slab,
bounded by brick and grass,
placed between buildings in the amphitheater
for the past nine days
so that those passing by would remember—
and perhaps pray—for families and survivors
of a shooting at another community college
nearly two thousand miles away.
Eighteen chairs of black plastic and shiny steel,
hoping that this can somehow bring feeling
into abstract news.
Nine black chairs tilted over against the cold stone
to show nine deaths,
a last breath of confession of faith
in the face of hatred and anger,
those ancient dangers that withstand
every law and notion,
all emotion stripped and fused
into one dark, harsh lashing.
Nine black chairs sitting empty
to show some sort of hope
that these wounded would somehow
return to learning,
to bearing the scars of marred lives
determined to find a way to grace
and regain that place
that will never again be taken for granted.
On the tenth day,
I stand with another man,
praying for healing,
for sharing of this sense
that there is something deeply wrong
in a culture where this has become commonplace,
knowing that it will take a Touch
far greater than law or liberty
to mend a rend such as this.
We say our “amens”
and bend our backs
to stacking nine black chairs each,
believing in the Reach of One Greater Than Us
to relieve us of this toil and trouble,
to bring mercy into a land
aching for gentle rain.
*In memory of eighteen students shot on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, on October 1st, 2015.