Death and Rainier

I watch a man die in Seattle, which puts a dampener on my day.
I hear screams as I’m walking down Pike Street, and turn
to see the blood erupting in red gushes from his nose,
and white troth trickling from the corners of his mouth.
Streams meet and merge into a fatal fountain as he collapses
in front of a woman whose white blouse is stained vivid red.

A crowd gathers immediately, and I join it, waiting to help,
waiting to do something, even though it already seems too late.
The ambulance arrives five minutes later, and I can only watch
as they heave the body inside as if onto a gurney, into a hearse.
I have to sit down for a few minutes afterwards, as the sirens fade
and the goosebumps on my arms take minutes to do the same.

Even though the unknown man has disappeared, departed.
his blood still lies congealed in a puddle in the pavement.
I leave before anyone appears to clean it up, walking away,
turning the wrong way then down to Pike Place Market in a daze
to find meat strung up on hooks, to be crushed by the crowds,
to find life in all of its shades compacted amidst the stalls.

Senses set ablaze in the bustling place, quieter by the gum wall
which I add to, reaching as high as I can to place something.
It’s all fun, all games, and I forget about the earlier events of the day
I don’t forget for long. Another ambulance speeds by
as I head towards the Space Needle, which I speed up
to see the city stretched and note the fog of death draped over it.

There’s nothing like the idea of dying to truly make you feel alive;
its sudden presence at your shoulder, a sharp intrusion, firm reminder.
To see it in person is to gain perspective, to know where you stand,
warping a sunny day in Seattle and then bringing it into focus.
Because watching someone die is to then watch yourself come to life,
in the midst of Pike Place Market or down by a west coast riverside.

I feel Seattle stirring in my bones long after the blood has dried on the floor,
I’m glad to be there, glad to be anywhere, glad to simply be.
As fleeting as the feeling might be. The EMP Museum sparks joy,
watching the Euro’s in a bar at the base of the needle feels like home;
Key lime pie in a midnight bus stop in the cold – free ride home.
New places, new emotions, a new appreciation at the wonder of it all

Then the next day I hear about the shooting in Orlando, fifty dead,
causing my clarity of being to shatter like glass pierced by a bullet.
The world I’d known the evening before warps again into something sinister,
something terrifying, with no light at the end of the tunnel. Fifty people.
There and then there no longer, pulses fading in Pulse Nightclub,
and I can’t enjoy the sea breeze renewed like I had the day before.

To die for being in love differs to dying from a sudden haemorrhage,
In its aftermath a hate crime does nothing to make a person feel alive.
The blood dries, and is then washed away, but everything else stays.
Loss, loss of love, loss of life, loss of hope in humanity. All is loss.
Seattle is lost amongst it all on the opposite coast, far away
But not far away enough. America isn’t that big, and never will be.

As much as I try to, I can’t beat the hollow feeling I’m left with
as I watch the news in a downtown coffee shop at quarter to seven,
walking numb afterwards around the nearby Seven-Eleven.
I pick up lunch for the day without an appetite, unable to stomach it.
Morning newspapers stained red to match that woman’s dress,
my feet sluggish as they drag along the empty pavements.

I pull them to the bus stop and I head to Mount Rainier later that day,
passing green glades and fresh fields, escaping the Seattle smell of weed,
cruising up and as close as we can to the peak, surrounded by snow.
My hand shakes as it holds my coffee cup, a permanent attachment,
a staple of my stay in Seattle, which is the home of Starbucks HQ –
there’s one every quarter of a mile, our guide tells us with a smile.

Hard to care for the fact, when there’s a couple from Florida
crying towards the back, crying over the commentary.
The unaware mountain loses most of its majesty thereafter.
I slip along footpaths, ascending as my heart is still descending,
the warmth of the day before lessened to a numbing chill.
My feet start to sink into fallen snow, and stop, still.

I expect them to keep sinking, I think that I want them to.
To die for wanting to feel love is to die for living at all.

Seattle, June 2016


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