A mother gray whale
watches orcas savage
and slay her calf;
she lingers in the red sea
for a moment, then
continues on alone.
The calf’s carcass drifts toward
the bottom of the shallows
where it will serve its killers
as a meal to be consumed
at their leisure. I don’t cry —
not for that calf
who after all was simply in
the wrong place at the wrong time
or the right place if you believe
all things happen for a reason,
nor for that mother who lingers briefly
then moves on, nor for the orcas
who need to feed and are only doing
what they are designed to do. I think
I’m going to cry for the documentarian
who watched these things happen
without being able to affect an outcome,
without wanting perhaps even to try —
I don’t know if that’s fair, or true; maybe
they began this work seeking that
and slipped away from it the way a corpse
dissolves to gray when it is finished
with living. In moments of such drift
perhaps they turn back towards themselves
and say there’s still hope it will change
something, awaken a viewer into action
on behalf of those things which can be changed.
I say this on a night when video
of Laquan McDonald’s murder by cop
on a Chicago street pushes throngs
into action. No one stood
behind that camera. No one watching can see
anything there that had to happen.
No one could say that the cops were doing
what they had to, although it may be
what they were designed to do.
No camera shows
a mother lingering
over his body.
Nothing in any film yet made
suggests anyone is moving on;
no natural order
here, no sweet music
of the circle of life.
It’s not that kind of killing. It’s our kind —
on the street, on our hands,
on all the surfaces of earth and sea.
Wherever the next camera will be,
the next killing will be —
wrong place, right time,
wrong time —
are you going to want to see
someone’s going to make
about what you did
when a murder happened
right in front of you?