The most common thing in the world
is a statue with its arms broken off.
The brokenness a flatness exposing the texture of the marble or clay.
The second most common thing are the arms.
The right to bear them.
Which is something even those who do not want the right have.
Having something or someone to pray for
doesn’t mean you have to pray.
Who gave you something or someone to pray for, think of that.
In the third most common thing, grass still wet
from rain overnight, which you did not participate in by watching.
You were asleep in the fourth most common thing.
You wake now and walk on the fifth most common thing.
The smooth surface of it.
Without meaning to be reductive.
You say the name of a country to refer to its ongoing conflict.
The word conflict a rag that wipes the blade clean.
A clean blade above a fireplace is the sixth most common thing.
Which means you have a neighbor, either
to the east or west, who is currently displaying a weapon.
Even if you do not own a weapon, you could.
And because of this you are complicit.
But you cannot do anything about most things.
You cannot put the arms back onto a statue
is another way of saying you can’t put a bullet back into a gun.
The body subsumes bullets as though it is in love.
It inculcates bullets in the ways of the flesh.
Which is torn by the time the bullet is convinced.
You aren’t convinced of anything you don’t already believe in.
In this way you are always standing your ground.
The ground under someone standing it
is the seventh most common thing.
The eighth is the air in which you openly carry.
You like the feel, the weight, the heft of it in your hand.
But mostly you like the ability to take another’s life should you need to.
It was your grandfather’s ability, your father’s.
Before you know it, it will be your child’s.
Whose body in the fetal position resembles a finger curling over a trigger.
Whose whole life is still in the magazine.
Until it isn’t and the sound is like that of a sternal saw
cutting through the breastbone of the world.
Finally buckling under the tink, tink, tink of the hammer against the saw.
And you thought you had hid the key to the drawer where you keep the gun.
But a key whose location is known is the ninth most common thing.
The tenth most common thing is a thoracic cavity
opened with a few cranks of the rib-spreader.
And the esophagus and lungs are fished around by the hands of a surgeon
who begins to massage the heart.
To clamp the aorta.
So that more blood is directed into the brain.
Instead of into the bowels, which have emptied by now.
While what is being filled are the gun racks of those.
Whose child is not on the table.
Is not statuesque in the beauty sense of the word.
But in the way rigor mortis sets in.
Copyright © 2019 by Christopher Kondrich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“With ‘Common Things,’ I was trying to understand how something so unbelievably devastating as gun violence could ever become normalized. I was trying to grapple with the implications of normalization. I also wanted to confront my own complicity in the normalization of gun violence and attempt to push back against the notion that becoming inured to it, simply because it happens daily in this country, is an inevitability.”
Christopher Kondrich is the author of Valuing, forthcoming from University of Georgia Press in 2019 and selected by Jericho Brown as a winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, and Contrapuntal (Free Verse Editions, 2013).
Date Published: 2019-04-19
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/common-things-0