Dirge For Amadou Diallo

It is hard to have your son die
In a distant land

If they said he was a soldier
We would pray
The way we always pray
That his would be the final sacrifice
And we would understand

Questions will fill
That churning emptiness
Shaped like a boy
Grown beautifully into a man
There'll be no answers
Still, we'll understand

If he was a true believer
Or a missionary
Apostle or a revolutionary
Ardent altruist or visionary
- in these mean times?
Maybe instead
A hard and nerveless man,
A mercenary
Then we would dread
His noble loss or petty glory
And we would understand

It is hard to have your son die
In a distant land

If accident
Or heart attack
We could blame chance
Or curse our earthbound ignorance
Vow to concoct new mythologies
That wouldn't
Forge us such raw cruelties
Marching our hope
In coffles toward the grave

We'd understand
If someone said he was,
This son, a prodigal:

The kind of man who desperately
Needs the vise of suffering
And hurt and desolation
Some eccentricity to hold him firm
To help him shape his heart
Into an instrument of praise

The kind of man
Who dares to summon whirlwinds
To winnow wisdom from sophistication,
O we would wail
And hold our heads
Astonished by the wastefulness of Fate
This repetitious wastefulness of Fate
And understand

But now they tell me
Of a peaceful man
A mother's son, a father's pride
Seeking to study
In the learned halls
Of a distant, splendid,
Powerful, affluent land

A young man murdered murdered
And murdered at the hand
Of men sworn to uphold the Law
Not thugs or bandits
And there's no justice?
There's no recompense?

O no,
In spite of all our history of terror
In the world
Uncountable eons of sorrow
Of the world
O no, O no
We do not understand

It is hard to have your son die
In a distant land
And harder still
When we can't understand

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