Two days before it happened, the news briefing
showed me a man in a cowboy hat
festooned to the brim with purple heads of garlic.
I smiled, and thought how zealous people can be.
I didn’t realize what other kind of zealot would
mingle with the garlic-lovers in Gilroy, and how differently
that town would next appear on the morning news.
Thirty-two mass shootings this year, with five months left
before the next one turns. I could do the math, but
the numbers give me no new meaning.
In March last year I walked agitated streets
under signs that declared ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
and NOT ONE MORE. I felt a change coming,
but today I’m wrong again
for the thirty-second time since January.
Unable to see the solution in these numbers,
I turn instead to garlic: our ancient ally
against the demons of the night, the enemies
who suck our blood and desecrate our
systems of belief. Did you know
about garlic’s powerful medicine? Within each cell
are chemicals that can heal our wounds and
purge our bodies of parasites and disease.
But the cloves must be broken, the cell walls crushed
to let the healing begin.
I picture bullets shredding the cloves of
thousands of pounds of garlic, how amidst
the desecration, the destruction of faith in life
those papery bulbs offered their quiet gift.
I wish it were that simple a metaphor:
because we are broken, now we can start to heal.
But today’s news briefing showed me two more atrocities
in less than twenty-four hours. I could do the math, but
even as the numbers climb higher
the outcome never seems to change.
Marina Stevenson lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Her writing has appeared in publications including the Florida Review and Watershed Journal.