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Wednesday, August 31, 2016


by Joan Colby

With apologies to T.S. Eliot

August is the deadliest month, breeding
400 shootings, 78 dead in the city, mixing
Memories of 20 years past, stirring
The dull ache of lodged bullets.
A ten-year-old boy covering
What he can’t forget with questions. Feeding
His small life. Have they found who shot me?
Summer brings the surprise of killings to Chicago,
A shower of ammunition. The colonnades
Of viaducts are not safe even in sunlight.
No one is protected drinking coffee or talking
In the language of their forefathers.
The children in any neighborhood
Are at risk. Bicycling, sledding,
They are frightened. Hold on tight. You can go down
In a single moment. No one here is free
Even if they read all night. Even in winter
The guns are clutched like branches to grow
In the stony rubbish of the hearts of these Sons of Man
Who only know a heap of broken images.
How bodies find no shelter. The sun beats
From the waterless shadows. The red rock
Of a fury that strides behind them,
That rises at evening to meet them.
A surge in violence. So far this year
2,800 shot and still four months to go.
I will show you fear in a handful of bullets.

Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). She is the editor of Illinois Racing News, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 11 books including The Lonely Hearts Killers and How the Sky Begins to Fall (Spoon River Press), The Atrocity Book (Lynx House Press) and Dead Horses and Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press. Selected Poems received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize.  Properties of Matter was published in spring of 2014 by Aldrich Press (Kelsay Books). Two chapbooks are forthcoming in 2014: Bittersweet (Main Street Rag Press) and Ah Clio (Kattywompus Press). Colby is also an associate editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press.