May 4: Kings Bay Plowshares Indicted in Southern District of Georgia Federal Court


Press Release
May 4, 2018
For more information contact:
Jessica Stewart: 207.266.0919
Paul Magno: 202.321.6650
Brian Hynes: 718. 838.2636

Kings Bay Plowshares Indicted in Southern District of Georgia Federal Court

On April 4, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Liz McAlister, 78, Stephen Kelly S.J., 70, Martha Hennessy, 62, Clare Grady, 58, Patrick O’Neill, 62, Mark Colville, 55, and Carmen Trotta, 55, entered the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. Carrying hammers and bottles of their own blood, the seven sought to enact and embody the prophet Isaiah’s command to: “Beat swords into plowshares.” In so doing, they were upholding the US Constitution through its requirement to respect treaties, international law through the UN Charter and Nuremburg principles, and higher moral law regarding the sacredness of all creation. They hoped to draw attention to and dismantle what Dr. King called, “the triple evils” of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism.

In an indictment filed this week in the Southern District of Georgia, Brunswick division, the seven were charged with four counts: Conspiracy, Destruction of Property on a Naval Station, Depredation of Government Property, and Trespass. They will appear before a magistrate in Brunswick on May 10th. Although currently being held at the Camden County jail in Woodbine, Georgia, they expect to be acquitted of all charges. Attorney William P. Quigley, Professor of Law at Loyola University, New Orleans, LA, noted, “These peace activists acted in accordance with the 1996 declaration of the International Court of Justice that any threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal.”

Kings Bay Naval base opened in 1979 as the Navy’s Atlantic Ocean Trident port. It is the largest nuclear submarine base in the world. The Kings Bay Plowshares hope to draw attention not only to the threat of nuclear annihilation posed by the weapons aboard the submarines whose homeport is Kings Bay, but to emphasize how the weapons kill every day. Clare Grady wrote from Camden Country jail, “We say, ‘the ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide’, and yet, the explosive power of this weapon is only part of what we want to make visible. We see that nuclear weapons kill every day by their mere existence. We see the billions of dollars it takes to build and maintain the Trident system as stolen resources, which are desperately needed for human needs. In response to news of the indictment, Mark Colville, of New Haven, Connecticut, wrote from the Camden County Jail, “Once again the federal criminal justice system has plainly identified itself as another arm of the Pentagon by turning a blind eye to the criminal and murderous course from which it has repeatedly refused to desist for the past 70 years.”

For more information visit their facebook page: Kings Bay Plowshares.

Martha Hennessy: Letter from a South Georgia Jail

Reflection by Martha Hennessy
From Camden County Jail, Woodbine, Georgia Jail

Sunday, April 22, 2018

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against the Lord’s anointed one.(Acts 4: 23-26)

We walked in the dark, stars overhead, with Orion at our shoulder and the waning moon rising late. Praise to you Dear God, for this gift of Eden. There were fire flies and croaking frogs to keep us company. And to think the logic of Trident is the obliteration of Creation. What did God whisper to my ancestors and then to me? Swords into Plowshares! We don’t mean to make everyone furious, but why turn our blood and hammers into spray paint and bolt cutters?* Why continue to set the desecrated altar to the false idols of war? We walked onto a military base that harbors the ultimate destruction, and we prayed for the power of a message, of a witness that could reach many ears; conversion of free will towards life- giving work and away from death dealing false constructs.

We strung up crime scene tape over the model missiles and over the door to the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic (SWFLANT), a place where war plans promise to take all we love. We wish to indict this war machine for what it is: immoral, illegal, and monstrous. Our foolish plans desire to see a world in which the suffering is lessened, our leaders begin to know what it means if they pull the nuclear trigger. Our action is an invitation to all for a change of heart that will bring us to true revolution.–Martha Hennessy (granddaughter of Dorothy Day who cofounded the Catholic Worker Movement)

*Editor’s note: the charging documents and the Magistrate referred to their possession of bolt cutters and spray paint, but ignored mention of the symbols of blood and hammers, which were used by the seven in their symbolic action. Please contribute to the Kings Bay Plowshares legal fund.

 

Catholic Leaders Still in Jail After Prayer at Nuclear Submarine Base in Georgia

19 APRIL 2018 UPDATE from Matthew W. Daloisio, part of the legal team for Kings Bay Plowshares 7:

Contribute to the Kings Bay Plowshares legal fund.

Federal Charges: We have been in touch with an Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) in the Southern District of Georgia. It is our understanding from the communication thus far that it is likely that the US Attorney will want to prosecute. At this point, we cannot give a definitive timeline, but we are preparing for a possible indictment on federal charges in early May.

An indictment would be followed by an appearance before a US Magistrate who will handle arraignment, bond and/or conditions of release, and scheduling subsequent court dates.

The AUSA has been trying to get in touch with the State Prosecutor, and we have reached out as well. He, and we expect that once the feds indict the local DA will likely drop the state charges. This may or may not mean a transfer from the Camden County jail.

Bond Challenge: As you know, on Friday, April 6th, Chief Magistrate Jennifer E. Lewis of the Camden County Magistrate Court said in court she was denying bond on the felony charges (and she set $50,000 on the misdemeanor).

We are in the process of pursuing a bond appeal. A local public defender will file an appeal on behalf of Carmen, and myself and Anna Lellelid will file on behalf of the other folks. We anticipate filing the papers in the next week, with a hearing likely to occur May 8th.

The outcome of the bond appeal is uncertain. There is a small possibility that folks could be released. A more likely scenario would be the decreasing of the misdemeanor bond amount and a setting of bond on the felony charges with certain release conditions after which folks could decide how to proceed. It is also possible that the court upholds the current determination.

State Charges: The seven folks are currently charged in state court with possession of tools for the commission of a crime and interference with government property, both felonies, and criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.

The state has 90 days (approx. July 6th) to indict and arraign on these charges. After an indictment, there will likely be a number of pre-trial hearing dates set.

Next Steps: We will continue to pursue the appeal of the bond on the state charges, although this may become a moot point if the state charges are dropped in favor of the federal charges.

We should know more in the coming weeks, and certainly by early May about what the path forward looks like.

Visit Update: We met with the women for two hours in the morning, followed by two hours with the men. I was able to go back later in the day and met with the men and women together for another two hours.

Everyone is in good spirits, happy to now have underpants, more food, and extra layers, purchased through commissary. We were able to deliver some books and a packet of legal information.

There are three men’s ‘pods’ in the jail, and one pod for women. There are 24 beds in each pod – and up to 30 people…meaning some are on mattresses on the floor. Carmen and Mark are together in a pod. Steve and Patrick are in separate pods. All of the women are together in a pod – and cell, with Clare on a mattress on the floor.

In terms of other jail logistics: (1) there are three standing counts during the day, with the first being at 5am, and the last at 11pm. The lights go off at midnight and are back on at 5am. There is limited access to fresh air, and when folks do get outside, it’s on paved ground with a fence overhead. (2) the phone is available in each pod most of the day (roughly 8am-10pm). Calls are limited to 15 minutes, and the line for the phone is fairly constant. (3) there is one computer in each pod where folks are able to send and receive emails (if you sign up for an account https://deposits.jailatm.com/webdeposits/default.aspx) –Matthew W. Daloisio

Bond Denied for 7 Catholic Protesters Who Prayed on Nuclear Submarine Base in Georgia

KINGS BAY, Ga. — Just steps away from a decommissioned submarine buried in the ground near the main gate at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia, anti-nuclear peace activists held a vigil Saturday morning to protest the U.S. nuclear arsenal and to show support for seven Catholic peace activists arrested early Thursday morning for unauthorized entry onto the base.

Pastor Eric Johnson of Durham, N.C., opened the vigil by reading from Acts 4, describing early Christians in court for disobeying local authorities and continuing to heal and preach in the name of Jesus, which was illegal:

“Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men and women, the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.”

Saturday’s peace vigil at the Kings Bay base follows the arrest of seven Catholic leaders who entered the base on Wednesday without authorization to draw attention to the global dangers of the Trident fleet and link the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

 Kings Bay spokesperson Scott Bassett told the Washington Post, “At no time was anybody threatened,” adding that there were no reported injuries and that no military personnel were in danger.
The seven activists were denied bail on Friday morning and are expected to remain in jail for at least the next several days. The detained are: Elizabeth McAlister (78), Jonah House, Baltimore; Steve Kelly, SJ (69), Bay Area, Calif.; Carmen Trotta (55), Catholic Worker, N.Y.; Clare Grady (59), Ithaca Catholic Worker (NY); Martha Hennessy (granddaughter of Dorothy Day), 62, Catholic Worker, N.Y.; Mark Colville (55), Amistad Catholic Worker, New Haven, Conn.; Patrick O’Neill (61), Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker, Garner, N.C.  … Read the rest of the article on sojo.net.
Contribute to the Kings Bay Plowshares legal fund.

 

Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence

I’m pleased to introduce you to Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence (edited by Marie Dennis) that includes a chapter by me on Catholic Just Peace Practice, based on the paper that I wrote for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative gathering in Rome in 2016. Others included here are: South Africa’s bishop Kevin Dowling, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Maria Stephan, Terrence Rynne, Ken Butigan and John Dear, with the guiding voice and direction of Marie Dennis. It includes the voices of many more within the chapters, reflecting a worldwide conversation happening within the Catholic Church on the centrality of gospel nonviolence. This is the first major release of the work that the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative is stewarding and curating across the Church, especially in the majority world where Catholics are most numerous.

Action steps for Choosing Peace:

  1. Order bulk copies of Choosing Peace from Orbis, so they know this is a popular title and ask your local bookstore to carry it.
  2. Send a copy of Choosing Peace to the Catholic bishop in your area. Even if you are not Catholic, you can look up the Catholic bishop in your area and send him a letter along with the book asking for him to offer leadership in the area of gospel nonviolence. Tell him that you appreciate that he is a moral leader in your area and you respectfully ask that he give this book and its message prayerful consideration.
  3. Order Choosing Peace for your book group! There’s lots in this book that addresses current conversations in the Catholic Church related to the leadership of Pope Francis. But it’s also useful reading for groups committed to Christian nonviolence. It raises provocative questions and opens up a little know history on Christians and peace. (See Nonviolent Fight Club for more on the provocative discussion!)

It takes a movement to respond to the Holy Spirit’s charge to turn away from violence. Be part of the movement!

 

21 April 2018: Split This Rock Poetry Festival

21 April 2018, 3:30-5p, “Poetry of Praise: Reclaiming Religion and Spirituality for the Resistance (Reading)” at Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives “Memorial Hall” (1201 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036). Presenters: Ayari Aguayo-Ceribo, Kazim Ali, Rose Berger, Sunu P. Chandy, Temim Fruchter, Letta Neely, Marie Varghese. Part of Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2018.

In this reading and workshop, poets will share writing from varied religious, spiritual, and cultural backgrounds to reclaim religion and find sustenance, healing, and holiness in faith practices and communities. In this time where religion is being used to institute regressive policies, we amplify the good that is inspired by religion, discuss how spiritual practices are vital to many of us who identify as part of the resistance, and highlight how religious practice has historically served this purpose. This session explores the connections between poetry and prayer, between faith and sharing our truths, liberation theology, and the idea of Infinite Sustenance. Together, we will consider how we all harbor holiness, how the Divine and faith enter our work and our poetry, how queer identities find spaces within religious communities, and how racism impacts faith communities. For the workshop, we will share writing prompts and exercises with participants and interact with them and their writing as guides.

Catholic Leaders Take Pope’s Word and Denounce Nuclear Weapons at Kings Bay Georgia

[April 19, 2018 update here.]

Seven Catholic leaders trespassed onto the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia on Wednesday. This is the first major direct anti-nuclear action taken by U.S. Catholics since Pope Francis announced in November that Catholics should condemn not only the use of a nuclear weapon but their possession.

“The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned,” the pope told participants at a conference on nuclear disarmament hosted by the Vatican in collaboration with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passed by the United Nations in July 2017.

The seven members of the Kings Bay Plowshares, a nonviolent movement committed to “beating swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4), included Elizabeth McAlister, a revered leader in the American Catholic peace movement; Fr. Stephen Kelley, a Jesuit priest; Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day who was founder of the Catholic Worker movement and currently considered for sainthood; with Clare Grady, Patrick O’Neill, Carmen Trotta, and Mark Colville.

Carmen Trotta and Elizabeth McAlister on Kings Bay submarine base, 4 April 2018
Blood was spilled on the weapons facility crest to call attention to the purpose of the facility, which is mass destruction.

In a video statement made before crossing on to the naval base, Hennessy said: “We plead to our Church to withdraw its complicity in violence and war. We cannot simultaneously pray and hope for peace while we bless weapons and condone war making. Pope Francis says abolition of weapons of mass destruction is the only way to save God’s creation from destruction.

Clarifying the teachings of our Church, Pope Francis said, “The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned … weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity.”

Currently, all seven are held in Camden County jail in Woodbine, Georgia. They have been denied bond. At a support vigil held on Saturday, 7 April, at 10a (EST), the supporters read sections from the book of Acts until the sheriff’s department moved the vigilers away from the entrance gate to the base.

Famed Catholic attorney William Quigley will be leading the legal defense. (Contribute to the legal fund.)

The Kings Bay submarine Base is the U.S. Atlantic Fleet’s home port for U.S. Navy Fleet ballistic missile nuclear submarines armed with Trident missile nuclear weapons.–Rose Marie Berger

MEDIA COVERAGE:

April 5, 2018
From First Coast News
From Washington Post
From Common Dreams
From the Raleigh News and Observer
From the Tribune & Georgian
From National Catholic Reporter
From Franciscan Media

April 6, 2018
From News4Jax

James W. Douglass: ‘We Need To Know How Martin Was Killed’

Coretta Scott King sworn in at assassination trial in 1999.

On the 50th anniversary of Rev. King’s assassination, isn’t it time we looked the truth of who killed him more squarely in the face? Are we strong enough now to do that? Can we spiritually handle these truths?

Catholic theologian, activist, author, and historian Jim Douglass spent November and December 1999 attending the only trial ever held for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

It took place in Memphis, only a few blocks from the Lorraine Motel where he was killed. In a wrongful death lawsuit initiated by the King family, 70 witnesses testified over a six-week period. They described a sophisticated government plot that involved the FBI and CIA, the Memphis Police, Mafia intermediaries, and an Army Special Forces sniper team.

The twelve jurors, six black and six white, returned after two and one-half hours of deliberation with a verdict that King had been assassinated by a conspiracy that included agencies of his own government.

Since 1999, “the evidence and verdict of that trial have been public knowledge. The trial’s entire transcript has been posted at thekingcenter.com. It has been massively ignored. No one wants to deal with its implications. An understanding of the nature of King’s assassination would threaten the roots of our systemic violence,” writes Douglass.

Below is an excerpt from Jim Douglass’ speech King and the Cross.

Jim Douglass:
… We need to know how Martin was killed.

He was, first of all, set up.

When Martin Luther King went to Memphis on March 28, 1968, to march with the striking sanitation workers, government provocateurs infiltrated the march. The provocateurs broke windows, disrupted the march, and provoked a police riot. The violence made it necessary for King to return to Memphis on April 3, to prepare for a truly nonviolent march that would prove SCLC could carry out a nonviolent Poor People’s Campaign in Washington. By being forced to return to Memphis, King was being set up for his assassination.

He was also channeled into registering at the Lorraine Motel. On the day after the disrupted march, an FBI-authored article was passed to news media that read:
The fine Hotel Lorraine in Memphis is owned and patronized exclusively by Negroes but King didn’t go there from his hasty exit [form the march]. Instead King decided the plush Holiday Inn Motel, white owned, operated and almost exclusively white patronized, was the place to ‘cool it.’ There will be no boycott of white merchants for King, only for his followers.[17]

Although the Lorraine Motel posed security problems, those making King’s arrangements booked him there beginning April 3, just as the FBI wanted.

The Lorraine’s owners, Walter and Lorraine Bailey, initially gave King a more secure inner courtroom behind the motel’s office. However, Martin’s SCLC staff had been infiltrated by the government.[18] On the night before King’s arrival in Memphis, an unidentified male member of King’s staff in Atlanta phoned the Baileys at the Lorraine. The man insisted that King’s room be changed from the (more secure) inside location to an outside balcony room completely exposed to public view. The change was made.[19] The scene was set for April 4.

Martin’s assassination was also preceded by a withdrawal of police security. His ordinary security in Memphis included a special unit of black officers commanded by Memphis Police Captain Jerry Williams. However, for King’s April 3 arrival, Williams was disturbed that he was not asked to form the special black bodyguard.[20]

Moreover, two black firefighters at Fire Station 2, across the street from the Lorraine Motel, were inexplicably transferred early on April 4 to fire stations where they were not needed.[21] In addition, a black Memphis Police Department detective, Ed Redditt, who was watching King’s room from a Fire Station 2 surveillance post, was suddenly removed from his post two hours before King’s murder. The order was given by Memphis Police and Fire Director Frank Holloman, who had recently retired from 25 years with the FBI, seven of them as the supervisor of J. Edgar Hoover’s office. Holloman ordered detective Redditt to go home because, Holloman claimed, Redditt’s life had been threatened. Redditt protested, obeyed the order, and arrived home just as King was shot.[22]

Finally, also on April 4, by order of Frank Holloman’s subordinate, Inspector Sam Evans, the four tactical police units patrolling the Lorraine Motel area were all pulled back, thereby allowing an assassin to escape more easily.[23]

Government agencies facilitated Martin’s murder by the systematic withdrawal of all his normal security. They also plotted his assassination in such a way as to involve the Mafia as intermediaries, providing another layer of cover for the powers that be. The scapegoat was James Earl Ray. If one probed behind him, one could discover a Mafia contract with police connections. Behind the Mafia, in the shadows, were the FBI and CIA. And behind them were the invisible minds and hands ruling the system, fearful of exposure to the light.

Everything was in place on April 4, 1968. The Mafia’s Frank Liberto, a Memphis produce dealer, had sent a courier to deliver $100,000 to Loyd Jowers, the owner of Jim’s Grill whose back door opened onto the dense bushes across the street from the Lorraine Motel. Jowers then received a rifle in a box on April 3 from a man named Raul. It was Raul who also brought the scapegoat, James Earl Ray, into Memphis on April 4, after Raul had shepherded Ray in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico since the previous summer.

We know Loyd Jowers’ role in the King assassination because he confessed to Martin’s son, Dexter King, and former UN Ambassador Andrew Young in a fall 1998 meeting that was tape-recorded. The audiotape was played for the jury at the 1999 trial I attended.[24] In his confession, Jowers said that meetings to plan the assassination took place at Jim’s Grill. The planners included undercover Memphis Police Department Officer Marrell McCollough (who went on to a career with the CIA), Police Lieutenant Earl Clark, a third police officer, and two men who Jowers thought were federal agents.

At 6:00 p.m. on April 4, James Earl Ray was several blocks away at a service station, trying to get a flat spare tire fixed.[25] Unknown to Ray, the fake evidence to scapegoat him had already been left near the entrance to the boarding house where he had rented a room, as we learned from the King trial testimony of Judge Arthur Hanes Jr., Ray’s former attorney. At ten minutes before the assassination, the rifle Ray had bought at Raul’s orders was dropped in the doorway of the Canipe Amusement Company.[26] In the King trial, witness Judge Joe Brown, who had the planted rifle tested, said that because its scope had not been sited, “this weapon literally could not have hit the broad side of a barn.”[27]

At 6:00 p.m., the hired shooter was in the thick brush and bushes directly across from the Lorraine, aiming the real rifle at Martin Luther King, who was standing on the balcony in front of his room. Early the next morning, as established by trial testimony, those same bushes were cut down by order of Police Inspector Sam Evans, thus destroying the crime scene.[28]

Investigating the assassination of Martin Luther King over the past decade[29] has been pilgrimage into martyrdom. From that journey I have learned, first of all, how naïve I was about systemic evil. While there is nothing new about prophets being murdered by the system, I was not aware of how well our own system carries out such murders—and why. …

Read the full transcript.

April 4: The King of Love

Fifty years ago, Martin King was assassinated. As theologian Jim Douglass shows, the face-covering of the Unspeakable was lifted and we saw the true enemy of the great democratic experiment. Nina Simone sings into the moment as she wrestles with “Always living with the threat of death ahead / Folks you’d better stop and think / Everybody knows we’re on the brink / What will happen, now that the King of love is dead?”

For Christians and Americans, this is our Good Friday moment. And with every killing of Michael Brown, Sarah Bland, Trayvon Martin, and Stephon Clark … with every killing of Sandy Hook children Charlotte Bacon (age 6), Daniel Barden (age 7) and 24 others … with every killing of Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, Edward Sotomayor Jr., and 48 others at the Pulse nightclub … with every high school leader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland … with all known and unknown … we reveal that we are still standing – uncertain – at the foot of the cross staring at our Crucified Christ. Which side are you on? Which side am I on? –Rose Marie Berger

Video: Privacy, Surveillance, Arendt, and Gandhi

“A life spent entirely in public, in the presence of others, becomes shallow.”–Hannah Arendt

Roger Berkowitz (Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College) and Uday Mehta (professor of political science at CUNY) discuss “private” and “public” life in the context of Hannah Arendt’s writing and Mohandas Gandhi’s writing. They discuss the “virtue of reticence” and the importance of public-private boundaries in order to allow for public judgement and standards as well as for the development of individual or communal “spiritual depth.”

Length: 1 hour (first 25 minutes are Berkowitz’s and Mehta’s presentation)

My notes:

When the right to security becomes a transcendent right, rather than one right among many that need to be balanced, then other rights become subservient to it. But for Christians, security is never a transcendent value. Our “security” comes from God.

Uday Mehta: For Gandhi, privacy mattered to him but not as a “right” provided to you by the state or anyone else. Gandhi does not think his bedroom life is “private” but there are somethings that are so important that they are only between the individual and God and this is private. But the state cannot infringe on this.

Arendt’s things that should be private:
1. Goodness can’t exist in the public sphere. If people know about your goodness then it dies. Friendship can be public, but love should always be private.
2. Birth and Death cannot exist in the public sphere. When you become of age as a public citizen, then the public should not ask about who you were beforehand.
3. Opinion/personal conversations should be kept private.

Uday Mehta: Gandhi’s perspective was that one should say nothing in private that one would not say in public. Because of this he never develops some of the pernicious aspects of “vanguardism.” Gandhi’s commitment to openness did not lead him to violate confidences.

Arendt: If privacy matters, then the only reliable safeguard for privacy is the right to private property, which might not be defensible on economic grounds, but is on privacy grounds.

If you try to balance privacy and security, privacy will always loses, because people will always choose security, convenience, and transparency. People don’t think that invasion of privacy takes away their dignity or autonomy and so they freely give privacy up.

Gandhi wanted to have a conversation between the Indian civilization and Western civilization (and he thought that Indian civilization was superior), but he did not want it to be a nationalist political struggle for sovereign rights.

Scott Cairns: Coming Forth

Coming Forth

I’m sorry. I’ve had a hard time not laughing
even now. This ridiculous grin

won’t get off my face. Dying did it,
though I don’t remember much about

being dead. Sometimes, horrible things happen:
children die, famine sets in, whole towns

are slapped down and turned to dust by earthquake.
I can’t help it, but these things start me

laughing so I can’t stop. My friends all hate me.
The morning my sister cracked her hip,

I was worthless; I had to run clear out
to the clay field to keep anyone from seeing

how it broke me up. I know. You think
I’m trash, worse than a murderer

or a petty god. I suppose I am.
I just get this quiver started

in me every time someone I know dies and stays dead.
I tremble all over and have to hold

myself, as if some crazy thing in me
were anxious to get out. I told you

I can’t remember being dead. I can’t.
But this weakness in my knees, or in my throat

keeps me thinking—whatever comes next
should be a thousand worlds better than this.

—Scott Cairns, The Translation of Babel (University of Georgia Press, 1990)