7 July 1999
William Gillespie & Mike Lehman

Police say they fired no shots in struggle in van

What with the family reunion, the heat, and the racist killing spree that passed just two miles from the Newspoetry treehouse, it was a trying vacation. The drive back from Kansas City was endless, and we listened to enough news broadcasts (Daniel Schor on NPR mumbling about smallpox-tipped Russian warheads), I feared, to permanently damage the optimism of my nephew Alex (who is Jewish, although not as Orthodox as the first victims in Chicago). 


Heard you needed newspoetry. I was going to send this e-mail to you with the full expectation that you would be reading it later this evening. I have since realized that even the most connected of us, even one of those famous "the Unknown" writers, occasionally cast aside their laptops.

I'm just back from checking on your cats. I was concerned about them, what with it being the "explosive" 4th AND a racist assassin on the loose. I came in the door and sure enough, Sebastian was "acting out." The first thing he asked was "I need one of those AKs!" I reassured him that if he really needed an AK, I would be sure he got one, but that "it wasn't a time to be trigger happy."


I asked my mom if it was possible to write a poem about a racist killing spree and she said no. She doesn't think poetry and politics mix.

But I don't know what the politics of a killing spree even are. Even a killing spree with an identifiable racist agenda. But I'll take a stab at it. 

How about: "killing people is bad." ...

Is this getting too political?

Mags was much more self-assured. She reclined regally on the table and simply said, "Get real! There's a white supremacist gunman on the loose and you are spouting that pacifist propaganda that W is always reciting like some sort of 50's mantra. He isn't Allen Ginsberg and neither is that sicko in the light blue Taurus."

I calmed Mags, saying that I had been monitoring radio traffic and "last I heard Benjamin Smith was eastbound in Indiana three hours from here." Woofy merely grunted, comforted by my presence, as he had heard just today that the "Aryan assassin" was probably responsible for the shooting in Chicago of a black man last night, July 3rd.

As a black cat, he was concerned for his safety.


How about: "all forms of people killing people, including ethnic cleansing and peacekeeping, including murder and capital punishment, are bad."

Some politics. 

It doesn't take a racist killing spree arcing from Scott's city through mine to force me to such profundity. 

Just then I noticed the lamp, carelessly knocked to the floor, yet unbroken. It was then that I realized the crisis that my feline associates had been in before I'd unlatched the door. They had panicked and assumed that perhaps Ben Smith had succeeded in spawning the race war that his perverted fantasies had demanded and whose "promise" he was seeking to fulfill; it sounded way too much like "Promise Keepers" to me, too.

Sure, I was trained to defend us all, if it came to that. How could I explain that, like in Kosovo, there would be no easy heroism here? A drive-by was no more easy to defend against than Slobodan Milosevic. They best thing to do was to organize against such insanity BEFORE it happened, rather than react to it.

It is my sad New Years resolution to help the Newspoets create a documentary record of the turn of the millenium. 

Remember: shit like this actually happened in 1999.

I'm glad things are better now.

I turn the fan around to exhaust the hot air. The wind has changed, and now the ventilation must also, if we are to keep our cool. I finish calming the cats and then I feed them, somehow succesfully persuading Sebastian to share.

I hope it is a good omen.


Newspoetry at Spineless Books