Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Processing a Photo of the Parkland Shooter With My Spiritual Director

in Gun Violence/Opinion by
Photo published by NBC News, November 11, 2018
“Confessed Parkland High School shooter

Nikolas Cruz registered to vote from jail”

                      +what do you see?

this poor child—
all wrapped
in orange, like grave clothes, his burial shroud

paraded by the wrists shackled to his waist
chains that hang like links
on a bead-less rosary

skin so white, he’s like the dead—
a walking corpse? a monster at twenty?
his prison cell a living tomb

                      +how did he let it get this bad?

never learned to say no to insidious
voices, I guess

we humans are born nearly
knitted together
in our mother’s womb

fearfully and wonderfully made
                            (if the psalmist is to be believed)
and yet susceptible to the haunted night,
think: oily rags
how they spontaneously combust

breathing fire through the house
not even the family dog survives

                      +what’s he have to do with dogs?

I mean to say
                      Nikolas Cruz
confessed killer of seventeen young lives—
                      (people think you’re a monster now, his brother said)
but that’s not how he was made

                      +why the obsession with creation?

he’s still God’s child
molded in ethereal hands

overcome by evil, yes
like a dog with rabies
                                 (I don’t like the demon, he said)
convulsing and thrashing
the virus warping its vision, its brain

still, he’s
precious before God
                                 (I can’t even believe I’m saying this)
God dreamt him into being
and loved him

                      +loved? does God still love him?

I’m standing outside the tomb
waiting for someone to roll away the huge stone

inside the corpse putrified
a stench you can easily taste
I want to say
                      let the dead stay dead—
dammit let him stay dead
             (Nikolas himself said, Just f’king kill me…)

but you, you want me
to gaze into all that darkness
reach into it
find a way, any possible way,
                                       to love him
and scream out
                           Nikolas, I know you’re in there—
come out!


Br. Loren Moreno is a Franciscan novice friar at Old Mission Santa Barbara. He’s a graduate of The New School’s Creative Writing MFA program, a former reporter with The Honolulu Advertiser and HONOLULU Magazine, and the author of the poetry chapbook WE ARE IN DANGER OF DROWNING (Finishing Line Press, 2017).

Editorial art by Elle Aviv Newton.

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