May 4 – “what fire Burns in him when he sees us move away.”

Monday, May 4    “From Baltimore to Detroit, same fears of police passed down”   Rochelle Riley 

“She spoke for mothers across Baltimore, across the country, including metro Detroit, when she described how so many families are raising their children in fear.  ‘It’s sad to me because I’m raising two black boys,’ Temple said Thursday, keeping her 12-year-old son Darrien close at one of several protests after 25-year-old Freddie Gray was fatally injured in the custody of police officers. His death sparked massive protests, left dozens of buildings burned and caused more than $100 million in damage” (R Riley, 2nd paragraph, Sunday May 3).

This last week of hard news from a sister city, Baltimore, stirs resonances in Detroit.  Damage is damage, wounds are wounds.  We humans are at our best when we carry them with grief and inner attention.   Word from Baltimore where my niece, Terry, her husband Dan, and their children, live and work, has helped me to pay attention this week.  Yesterday, in the Sunday Detroit Free Press, Rochelle Riley helped too; the rest of her column is linked below the poem.

These conversations that began last week in Baltimore and stir truth talking across the country may explain why Ned Balbo’s “Fire Victim” became today’s post.  If you read this poem out loud, Balbo’s flint-hard language can wear on you.  Worth the wear though.

Have a blest week.


john sj

Today’s Post:  Ned Balbo: “Fire Victim”

Posted by Phyllis Cole-Dai on Apr 29, 2015 12:00 am

Once, boarding the train to New York City,
The aisle crowded and all seats filled, I glimpsed
An open space—more pushing, stuck in place—
And then saw why: a man, face peeled away,
Sewn back in haste, skin grafts that smeared like wax
Spattered and frozen, one eye flesh-filled, smooth,
One cold eye toward the window. Cramped, shoved hard,
I, too, passed up the seat, the place, and fought on
Through to the next car, and the next, but now
I wonder why the fire that could have killed him
Spared him, burns scarred over; if a life
Is what he calls this space through which he moves,
Dark space we dared not enter, and what fire
Burns in him when he sees us move away.


“Fire Victim” by Ned Balbo, from Lives of the Sleepers (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).
Art credit: “Empty BC subway car,” image by unknown photographer, posted on NYC the Blog (09/30/08).

Rochelle Riley, “From Baltimore to Detroit, same fears of police passed down” Detroit Free Press  May 3, 2015

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