The Sixth Way To Kill A Man

I read Meena Rose’s blog this morning and wrote this quick poem in response to her prompt to write an updated ending to Edwin Brock’s poem, Five Ways To Kill A Man. You can read Brock’s poem on Meena’s blog, click here. I will post an updated version the poem below in a later post.

I could not help but think that though there are many ways to kill, and it seems we continue to find new and chilling techniques each decade, that today we do it with ever more advanced means of distance and stealth.  I also thought that like the reaper we are unable to completely wash our hands of our killings, even when convincing ourselves we are fully justified.

Our best literature has told us this time and again: think of the Lady Macbeth attempting to wash off imaginary blood stains; think of the holy scriptures where King David is unable to build the Lord’s temple because God told him he was a man of battles and had shed much blood. These stories and many others, gives voice to an eternal truth about human nature: once a person kills another, whatever the justification, they are forever changed and the killing never leaves them. It becomes their companion as if they had adopted a ghost. Some times this leads to madness, sometimes to numbing emotional death.

In the modern era I think little has changed. Thanks to our omnipresent technology we all have become active participants in killing. We watch from the comfort of our living room people being exterminated like insects while sipping on a cool beverage. I do not think that it has ever been made this easy to watch the death of others. And we, like the killers, are changed forever.

The Sixth Way To Kill A Man

— after Edwin Brock’s Five Ways To Kill a Man

Today, Edwin, death comes to us all
rather traditionally, like a thief in the night.
In an undisclosed low lit room the Reaper floats
rubbing his hands like a fly his vomit.
Below, men with joy sticks
stare into blue screens that flash
and discuss sand fleas and friendlies.

We are all witnesses to the killings
And like Death we often wash our hands
yet it seems in the nature of things
that we are high overhead looking down
as shadowy figures walk in sand
or on a busy street or broken bridge
and we know too watching them
we’re next, that technology marches on:
a mere speck in the wide blue sky,
a bee buzzing in the lilies
a bass-noted vibration,
mistaken for a hummingbird
or the incessant whine
of a gnat burrowing in one ear,
ever nearer, ever louder, until
reflexively we begin to raise our hand,
when the swoosh and thump
that is death becomes us.

The future is only a block away,
we see a man become
a brilliant flash of white light
dirty smoke and falling litter
and from an ancient instinct
we flinch, tuck, twist and squat
as if sitting on an invisible chair,
one hand grips our head,
the other curls and hovers
a few inches from our chest.

*****

What do you think. Has the fact that we are witnesses to so much easy killing changed us?

Let me know. Leave your comment below.

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4 responses to “The Sixth Way To Kill A Man

  1. Kris: Nicely done! One cannot un-see what one sees.

    I grew up in a country that for a while had its values skewed and I was taken to witness a public execution during a Kindergarten field trip. I know I will never unsee that. I know that my 5-year-old self took part in a heinous act by merely spectating.

    To this day, the embedded new coverage of the wars recently waged makes me want to run and hide and disavow my involvement in the practice. I did make the decision to ban all news media from the home. Perhaps there is salvation there for the sights I did not see. Just perhaps. But yet, just because I did not see it does not mean it did not happen. Is this not reminiscent of the question: Does a tree falling in the forest with no one watching? Does it make a sound?

    • Meena, what an incredible post. How frightening. A five-year-old girl forced to witness an execution. You were a part of this but in no way culpable.
      I think trees falling in the wood unseen, unheard, still reflect light and create vibrations of sound. So too, when innocents fall under the guns of war there is a disturbance sent out throughout the earth.
      I think it is a matter of self-preservation not to watch televised violence. Yet, we cannot ignore it either and remain human. In our own writing we can make injustice known. That is what writers do. Just by relating your childhood experience I was moved further across the bridge away from the state of inhumanity.
      Thank you for posting. I look forward to visiting your blog often.

  2. Death, and murder, are such hard topics. You’ve discussed it with extreme eloquence here. I remember when I was much younger being at the bus stop and seeing a man stumble toward us covered in blood–he was coming to that corner because a police station used to be there (but had just closed). As it turned out, he had been shot, and crashed his car. A few minutes later, while the police were questioning him, a man drove up in a car with a gunshot through the window and blood all over. We heard later it was the guy who had shot him, trying to find him before he got to the police station. It was so bizarre, and such a strange sign of how little human life means to some people these days. I think if anything it has sensitized me to the ways of the world, and made me want to be that “ray of light” in a world so often shrouded in darkness.
    Thank you for this post!

    • Thank you, Khara. I am humbled that you have come through this experience and you desire to be a ‘ray of light.’ I suspect there are poems in you that will come out of this and shine for the world to see.

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