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Saturday, December 22, 2012


by Buff Whitman-Bradley

Human Giraffe by Subwaysurfer. Image source: Art Jumble Blog

When my children were little
I used to tell them that I was a giraffe
You’re not a giraffe, Daddy!
They would insist
But I stuck to my story
Oh yes I am

When their friends came over
My children would say
Our Daddy says he is a giraffe
But he’s not
The friends would look at me quizzically
And I would say
Oh yes I am

One year I decorated a birthday cake
With a pink and green giraffe
That’s me I said
And although my daughter was growing older
And no longer amused by the same old routine
She indulged me and said
You’re not a giraffe, Daddy
But I could see in her eyes
What she was really thinking –
And soon I stopped being a giraffe
Once and for all

I remembered all this today
As I stood silently in the rain
In our little town’s park
With one of my grown daughters
And a score of others grieving the gunning down
Of twenty school children in Connecticut
And I thought about
All the silly-dumb-boring family jokes
Those murdered children will not hear
Over and over and over again
About all the stories that will not be read aloud
About the bikes and games and snazzy sneakers
That won’t get bought for birthdays
About the pet names and nicknames
That will go unused
Missy, Natty, Buddy Boy, Baby Cakes
Mikey, Skeeter, Nan

I believe I chose to be a giraffe
Because it seems such an odd and improbable creature
Something Evolution doodled on a notepad
During a long dull meeting
A goofy-looking non-threatening beast
That doesn’t scare little ones
A gentle quiet Mister Rogers kind of animal
With a body as big as a house
Where a child could take shelter during a storm
And be safe

It is morning in the Serengeti
Clear skies 60-plus degrees and climbing
And while giraffes are waking up to another day
Of browsing in the treetops
And caring for their young
A long cold dark night begins
In Newtown, Connecticut
And in the wintery, violence-wracked heart of America

Buff Whitman-Bradley is the author of four books of poetry, b. eagle, poet; The Honey Philosophies; Realpolitik; and When Compasses Grow Old; and the chapbook, Everything Wakes Up! His poetry has appeared in many print and online journals. He is also co-editor, with Cynthia Whitman-Bradley and Sarah Lazare, of the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He has co-produced/directed two documentary films, the award-winning Outside In (with Cynthia Whitman-Bradley) and Por Que Venimos (with the MIRC Film Collective). He lives in northern California.