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Thursday, May 02, 2013


by John Kotula

Northern Lights in Alaska

A terrible, terribly damaged boy nearly bleeds to death in a boat, under a tarp, in somebody’s back yard. Yes, he has blood on his hands and worse. How have we let this happen to one of our boys? But no one will say they are broken hearted. They will only say they are strong. “You picked the wrong city this time,” they say. I just want to cry for a while and hold each other.

My granddaughter is fussing in her car seat. I corkscrew my arm back and grope around for her blinky. I help her get it to her mouth. My beautiful daughter smiles at her beautiful daughter in the rearview mirror. The baby grabs my index finger in her damp, four month old fist and goes back to sleep. Something to suck on, the purr of the motor, someone within reach who loves her, is all she needs for contentment.

Way up in the mountains of Honduras there are plans to build a dam that no one needs or wants. It will make rich Hondurans richer. They will siphon off their share. It will make rich Americans richer. They will sell unsustainable technology to the rich Honduras. Some how the Chinese are involved. Some rich Chinese will get richer, too. The thatched roof houses of the poor people who live along the river will be thirty feet under water.

There is a young man who trusts me to give him advice. His mother is suddenly in the intensive care unit at the hospital. He is ashamed that he doesn’t understand her condition and doesn’t know how to make things better for her. I take the young man to the hospital and help him talk to the social worker. I joke with his mother in my bad Spanish and make her laugh. He feels a little better. I would be proud to be this young man’s father.

Automatic weapon fire blows apart a whole school full of tiny, fragile bodies. Even with the knowledge that they will never hold their own children again, the parents go to Washington and say please don’t let this happen to some one else. But the Republicans have so blatantly sold their souls, you got to wonder why God doesn’t strike them down. Hey God, where is the fire? Where is the brimstone? Where are the frogs and boils?

I am three floors above sea level in an old, old building. Looking out through wavy glass I can see the beach curve away to the north. A poet is reading about her memories of living in Alaska. I know many people in the room. Some of them I’ve known for forty years. In that moment, The New York Times and National Public Radio are far away. I don’t think so much about the little things. The big things are more important.

John Kotula
is a writer and artist who lives in Peace Dale, Rhode Island.