Virginia Tech

English: Virginia Tech massacre memorial on th...

Image via Wikipedia

The recent school shooting and a couple of the poems I read yesterday and today at dVerse Poets Pub are the source of my inspiration for my own link to dVerse (better hurry up) and for Write2Day.

Writers of both poetry and prose are in constant source of inspiration and once source that we embrace from time-to-time are news stories offered in the various forms of new media. The tragic story in this week’s headlines offers an opportunity and, for some of us, a need to explore our own emotional response to tragedy or the complications of our world today.

For this week’s prompt, I suggest you turn to a news item that has (or had) an impact on your emotions.I wrote one I’m submitting after the shooting at Virginia Tech about 5 years ago.

Virginia Tech
April 16, 2008

The night before,
did he try to tell someone?
Say it to some stranger in a bar
who couldn’t hear through the boy-man’s

Did he wake up most days
at 2 AM,
hands balled in a fist
so that his joints ached?
Did pain creep from the ridge
of his gums and crest on the
sweet curve of his cheeks?

I once read that prodigies
are good at what they do
because they’re a little crazy.

That mask of smooth ochre skin,
could he peel it away for a moment?
Give a sneak peek of the gnawing
disease etched on his psyche?

In those hours alone in the library
or hidden behind undulating mounds of
azalea bushes,
did his swelling fingers clutch a BIC that bore
the phone number of his father’s
dry cleaning business?
Did he use the pen to scratch out
active verbs of destruction,
obscene adjectives that clung to
dangling participles?

They say that Hitler went
to daily Mass as a child.

As a kid, did he have a dog?
When he blew through the screen door-
the one with the tears stuck shut using
silver patches of duct tape-
did the dog come running,
tap a welcome dance on
the linoleum (gray squares with
tiny clusters of flowers at each corner)?
And did he kick the dog aside with his knee?
ignore it until the same time,
the same performance
the next day?

After not-greeting-the-mutt,
would he go to his room
and shut the door?
Listen to rap cranked
up in his headphones
while he read the Bible and wonder if
he’d go to hell
because of Lust?

Did he go to the woods in Virginia?
Find comfort in leafy branches
that tickled his progression along that path
that no one else seemed to know about?
There, in the hollow,
beneath an old oak,
did he flail his fists at the void,
swallowing the scream rising from the
base of his spine like a snake of
the Kundalini species?

I understand it’s true of all
Creative People, if we didn’t do the arts,
we could hurt somebody.

Did he sleep the night before?
Or did shadows toy with his angst
while muffled snores from the other side
of the paper thin dorm wall
ripped through him?
Taunt him in his evil purpose?
In the morning, did he wonder
if this was the day,
or if today,
like yesterday and the day before,
he’d steal a nap before class and
find enough release in sleep
to buy a few more moments of time
from his accrued life span.

Lots of people, I understand,
plot the sequence of their lives every day,
ahead of time, step-by-step.

And after he played out the first Scene of his
journey, did he fade off stage
and savor the coppery taste of blood spatter
on his hands?
Wonder if that was enough or if he
should go forward with Act II?
Or, did the fog of numbness
propel him through his role:
the part that hours of mental rehearsal
engraved in his movement memory?
When he dropped the package off,
did he look the clerk in the eye,
or had he weighed it ahead of time,
calculated the postage and
slid it through the slot in the wall near the PO boxes
to be time-stamped?

Then, after the others died,
did he hesitate,
think twice before the grand finale?
Wonder what he’d do if someone
ran through the door and cradled
him in strong arms,
sob with him in Fear and Anger?
Wrap him in a blanket and lead him from the scene?
Care for him like he’d really wanted to
do with his mangy hound
after it’d peed on the carpet in his bedroom?
But what if he were preempted?
What if someone stole that final scene?
He couldn’t let it go down that way,
could he?

After all, he was the author.
And once it’s written,
it’s copyrighted, even though
you should register it with the Government.

Previously Published, Edge, 2008

If you would like to join in:
Access the Mr. Linky at the bottom of this page.
Add your name and copy the direct URL of your SHORT STORY or POEM.
Visit other participants and comment on their work.

Photo via Wikipedia. Source Unknown.


28 thoughts on “Virginia Tech

  1. […] tool in the poet’s craft box. Here’s a short excerpt of a poem I’ve previously posted, Virginia Tech, that uses this […]


  2. dragonkatet says:

    I agree with the word “powerful” to describe this, and I love that you took the time to try and understand the boy’s perspective from what life must have been like for him, when so many have judged him without even trying to understand. It’s hard for me to believe it has been that long ago. It seems like it was just last week that this tragedy happened.


  3. tigerbrite says:

    You felt this so much you got inside the mind of who perpetrated this.
    The why and the need.
    Instead of condemnation you explored neediness and isolation.


  4. Jarring! My heart skipped beats and my breath was held. A frightening ride.


    Mark Butkus


  5. Sent shivers down my timbers…


  6. Jamie Dedes says:

    A stunning piece on several levels, Victoria.

    P.S.: Saw your comment and added event to the post. Good luck! 😉 Sound rather fun actually.


  7. Rachel says:

    Wow. I can see why they published that! What a powerful piece.


  8. Claudia says:

    wow…what a terrific and powerful piece victoria….we need to try to understand to find out how we can prevent that such things happen.. love the personal approach, how you try to feel him and make us feel him as well..


  9. mairmusic says:

    Wow. Truly astounding journey in your words. I am amazed.


  10. siubhan says:

    you take a rarely considered perspective and blow life into it with your images. so many what-ifs, so many still unexplained whys… this is very powerful. thank you for sharing it.


  11. zongrik says:

    OK, you have to know that if you put in “dog” it will light up for me like a neon sign!!

    Norman Mailer wrote first novel in 10 years, The Castle in the Forest, it’s a piece of fictional history. I loved it. The premise is what if satan sent a minion down to guide Hitler to actually become what he became. In it, Hitler’s Dad has a dog. That’s very interesting…

    Nice poem.


  12. PoetJanstie says:

    Victoria, I take my hat off to you. You have the poetic pen of a writer, clearly capable of great and grammatical prose. What a story! I love this kind of epic poetry. It is, as someone already observed, very powerful; and I felt that power moving me as I read it and also now, as I think about the psychiatric condition of so many people who are troubled to greater or lesser degree, and who need help. Sadly, a few of them are so troubled that they resort to this kind of tragic solution, too often without any chance of peaceful resolution and absolution, because they end their own lives or it is ended for them in the inevitable fray.

    Incidentally, I love the occasional short stanzas; like intermezzi between the acts of a drama, they add another dimension, almost like a commentary, to the depth of this piece. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.


  13. dfb says:

    Well done, Victoria, very powerful.


  14. This had to have been one of the longest days of my life…I will never forget the day that troubled young man took those lives. I often wondered what could cause a person to be that angry. I hope that we start paying closer attention to one another…the further we push each other away…the more we help create moments like these.

    I was living in Va when this happened…I literally couldn’t breathe…such sadness is suffocating.

    Thank you for reposting it

    Peace to you


  15. Such a tragedy this was, I remember they were showing it all day here in the news too! Unfortunately no one will ever know what really was in his mind and no one will ever be able to comfort the families of the victims … Sad events, expressed perfectly in your poetry!


  16. Ruth says:

    pure brilliance in that writing, Victoria – all those questions we (and he) never knew the answers to… your poem makes me cry for him as much as I ever did for his victims


  17. whimsygizmo says:

    A powerful piece, indeed. My heart just aches each and every time.


  18. Pat Hatt says:

    Wow, that was a powerful piece indeed. Taking a look at the would be killer, one has to step back sometimes and try not to let anger cloud their judgement, as there are always reasons, some not so great but they are always there. Still a sad state of affairs that such a thing ever had to occur.


  19. brian miller says:

    wow victoria…this is def a powerful piece…and interesting to ponder the man who would become a killer…VT is about 65 miles from me…i was one of the first responders that day…gonna get a little weird on you for a second…i wen tto work that morning but shortly after i got there i felt this oppressive weight on me and told my boss i had to leave…i did not know why, i was not sick, but i needed to go…he let me and i got in the car…on the way home i heard the news and just kept driving until i got there…there were so many kids just walking around aimless…i would sit with one or groups and just talk with them…love on them…bought a bunch of pizzas and just created a space to be and grieve…i stayed at one of the student unions and the next day supplied sound for franklin graham for a service on the drill field and just kept loving on kids…a guy with a guitar that i met along the way played in one corner for a bit and we all gathered round just singing…it was a surreal 3 days before i came home again…you brought all of it back in your words today…so sorry for writing you a book here but…


  20. Chazinator says:

    What a powerful way to deal with and sorrow, to remind ourselves that what was lost was humanity, human life. For these crimes will often destroy us if we get caught innthe frenzy of despair, calling for vengeance perhaps forgetful that humans deserve to be seen so, no matter how heinous their acts. Your does that, and more I think, aware that we cannot forget that we too are capable of evil, given the right circumstances, the right self-deceit.

    These lines say a lot to me, alluding as they do to the role that language and stories play in how we form our sense of self-awarenesd:

    After all, he was the author.
    And once it’s written,
    it’s copyrighted, even though
    you should register it with the Government.


  21. whimsygizmo says:

    Can’t find Mr. Linky? Mine is here:

    Great prompt, thank you!


  22. ManicDdaily says:

    Hi Victoria! This one makes me feel a bit sick to my stomach actually. The parts about the dog are wonderful, and someone trying to hold the boy, though it didn’t really seem terribly possible.

    Oh dear. So awful.

    You’ve written about it very powerfully.

    I am torn in what to put up==have an older villanelle re 9/11, that I like–of course, I lived in downtown NYC, and a silly post just now re Davy Jones. Not a poem! Will figure out! K.


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