Friday, July 8, 2022

Highland Park—The Day the Shield Failed—New Murfin Verse


Mourning in Highland Park.

As I was attending a reproductive rights rally in Crystal Lake on July 4th we got word of a shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, one of the toney and leafy North Shore suburbs of Chicago.  After during a family gathering at the Murfin Estate cell phones began to deliver grizzly details—roof-top shooter with an automatic weapon, six dead—initially—scores injured including children, a whole community traumatized.  By the ten o’clock news the suspected assailant, a local troubled young man with death obsessions and neo-Nazi and Trumpist connection.  The news in these parts has been filled with gory and tragic details, identification of victims, revelations of the perpetrator’s troubled life, and vigil after vigil.

Once again tragedy has moved me to commit poetry.  Over the last twenty years I have written too many verses to count—enough to fill at least a slim volume or occupy a whole evening of reading.  I have evidently become the poet laureate of carnage, grief, and rage.  And here I am at it again.

But perhaps I have grown cynical and callous.  Re-reading the verse below a few hours after writing made it seem so.  But it actually reflected the conflicted emotions I was feeling.  Especially after learning that an unarmed young Black man in Akron, Ohio was shot by police 60 time running away from a traffic stop while the murderous creep in Illinois was taken into custody without harm after a brief pursuit.

I may have been too harsh in my judgement.  Despite it wealth and overwhelmingly white population, the eventual seven dead included four Jews, two elderly Latino men visiting the city for the parade, one Latina and her Irish American husband.  The bad boy terrorist could not have picked better targets for a neo-Nazi, despite apparently spraying the crowd at random.  But maybe the hometown scion knew his community well enough to figure out the likely victims.

Mostly Jewish and Latinx, the Highland Park victims perhaps  not so random.

At any rate, here is the latest Murfin verse.

The Day the Shield Failed

July 4, 2022


It turned out, after all,

            that the protection

of wealth and White privilege

was not a Star Trek shield—

            phasers, torpedoes

            and ordinary bullets

            did not bounce off


                        on a day of

                        gay celebration

                        of a founding mythos

                        and the very idea

                        of benevolent blessings

                        and invulnerability.


But there was plenty of harm

            done that day

            wrecked not by an alien

            but a defective member

            of their own privileged class

                        blithely handed his weapon

                        fit for any military carnage.


The next day they wandered stunned

            amid abandoned chairs,

            strollers, and heat spoiling treats

                        “not here,       

                             not us,

                                 not now,

                                      not them




Pardon nice people

            let me introduce you—

                        chickens, roost,          

                                    roost, chickens.


—Patrick Murfin



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