Poetry Sunday: “The Streaming,” by Elizabeth Spires

The Streaming

MASSACRE in bold headlines as you walk into the coffee shop. The news. Constantly streaming. Finding you wherever you are:

At home. In the car. In the grocery store or running in an endless loop high above Times Square. The not-looking at what screams to be

looked at: the missing ones, the dead, the fires and the bombings, everything ravaged, burned, cracking in a godless desert heat.

Or closer, moving closer in. On the streets, the homeless, so many of them, hands held out. A dollar changing hands.

Or, the turning away. The refusal. The hardening as more and more hold out their hands. The mail. The solicitations. A voice asking you to give,

please, won’t you give more? And everywhere the ringing of the phones. On trains. In waiting rooms. At parties. Weddings. Funerals.

And once, during the third act of a play, an actor alone on the stage, head bowed, waiting in fury for the endless ringing to end.

Voices saying: I can’t talk to you now. Or talking on and on. And you hearing every word: I am in Baltimore. L.A. Spokane. New York.

I don’t know where I am. I just had lunch. I am getting on a plane. I will see you tonight. Or, Not tonight. Not ever again.

The needing-cessation but nothing ever ceasing. The wanting to scream but not screaming. But today, a space of silence

in a church where figures kneel and pray their pain may cease: Lord, take away the pain. Among flickering candles, they pray.

Shattered. Shattered by a ringing phone. But still you pray. Leaving, you pass a girl standing in the shadowed nave.

Holding a bookbag tightly to her chest. As if it were a shield. Two words on it, only two words:  STAY HUMAN.


First appeared in The Hudson Review, Autumn 2017

  Elizabeth Spires is the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently Worldling, Now the Green Blade Rises, and The Wave-Maker. “The Streaming” will be included in her new book, A Memory of the Future, forthcoming from W. W. Norton in the summer of 2018 and available for order here. She is also the author of six books for children, including The Mouse of Amherst, the tale of a white mouse that moves into Emily Dickinson’s bedroom, I Am Arachne, and I Heard God Talking to Me: William Edmondson and His Stone Carvings. She lives in Baltimore and is a professor of English at Goucher College. [Author photo credit: Celia Bell]    

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