Today is the five-year anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech that claimed thirty-two innocent lives. I was an English major at Virginia Tech back in the nineties, so Blacksburg is a place full of memories for me. Like many other alumni, I mourn the loss of those lives, and the loss of innocence that occurs when a place we love becomes forever enmeshed with tragedy.
I visited the campus in July 2007, and shortly thereafter wrote a poem about Blacksburg. I realize now that that poem, and many of the poems I wrote that year – “Thingvellir, Iceland,” “Snow,” “Thaw” – were about trying to preserve places I knew, and our attempts to defer the inevitable shifting of earth beneath our feet. Here is an excerpt from my poem, “Returning to Blacksburg:”
Wind swerves through the trees,
dividing the absorbed, the detoured,
the crashed atoms. The leaves tip up,
then dip, symmetry balancing
what is likely to survive. A swan
divides the water into coiled channels,
sending the synapses back
to be caught downstream.
Time is still in play, reversing its revisions:
the trick of the evergreen gathering
its tactics. Moss patterns on these stones,
borrows water to leave its stain –
a counterfoil – the way that what I give you
and what I keep are the same.