Scenes from the aftermath in Oakland:
stories of victims, survivors and healers.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"You've changed places, he and you" - Part 2

"You've changed places, he and you"
Part 2: So much hard frost

The poet Pavel Antonkolsky (need I say he's Russian, with a name like that?), described in verse his grief over the death in action of his young son in June of 1942. In his long poem, "Son," he seemed to capture, with  haunting precision, the suffering of today's parents who lose a son to violence. Please check out Part 1 of "You've changed places, he and you."

In the poem, Antonkolsky goes on to say, "You share your mourning with all Moscow," as surely the parents of the killed in Oakland seek to share their mourning with our city.

Antonkolsy then seems to describe the ambivalence of Moscow, which in 1942 was of course suffering the abject horror of war. Here he again captures something of the modern-day ambivalence of Oakland toward the survivors of homicide victims. Oakland can be a warm and happy place, tolerant and open. I love it here. (See: A Unified Theory of a Tough Town.)

Akim & Ultra Humphries lost their son, Darnell Byrd, in 2013
But there are neglected places. (See: Oakland's Tainted Geography.) There are communities and neighborhoods here subject to active oppression and suppression. (See: Beautiful Wounded: a story from The Deep.) In these communities, you could almost understand an inability to muster very much grief for the survivors. And yet, often they do muster it, and I have witnessed the support and love they bring to families of victims.

It's the warm and happy Oakland that tends to brush most killings aside. Hey, you've gotta live your life. And if you stopped too long to ponder every death here -- after this weekend's triple homicide, there have been 31 already in less than 6 months of 2015 -- you'd have little time left for your own problems. I continue to think that if we did stop to ponder the suffering that comes in the wake of each killing, no matter the circumstances, we would have less and less to ponder.

Here is how Antonkolsky saw his city, the Russian capital, after the death of his son:
You share your mourning with all Moscow. There
Are no lamps or candles in windows,
Only haze, chilled with all the tears
And so much hard frost. It helps 
With its attention. What memories? Rails,
Rails, rails, Poles, flying by, poles.
Those burned-out people, shivering in the wind,
The whine of shrapnel. The metal howl
Of fate...
                                            - from "Son"
                                              Pavel Antonkolsky

"You've changed places, he and you" - Part 1

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