This Is How

It will happen quietly. You won’t know it,
at first. The day will dawn, birds will be singing.
The coffee will be on. The kids will wake up.
It will happen and you won’t know it happened.
Get the kids to school, get yourself to work.
No one will be talking about it.
It will have already happened when you’re driving home,
a little extra traffic, an awkward silence on the radio.
There will be no announcement.
It will keep happening while you eat dinner and watch your shows
and put the baby to sleep again.
It will still be happening, and it will always happen
from then on, and you won’t even know.
It will keep on happening,
as it is happening right now,
as you read these words,
and you won’t even know.

This is how it happens. For years we’ve wondered.
This is how. We sleep, we wake, we work.
Life’s hard, and the chorus of voices crying out
is hard to hear, hard to focus on. Hard to bear.
We have enough troubles of our own.
These are questions we don’t want to struggle through.
We’ve got enough to worry about, for God’s sake!

This is how it happens.
A child cries and her mother turns
away from the TV screen
where the President is lying again.
This is how it happens. My car broke down. The TV says
another black kid was killed by police, the population
at the detention centers has grown again.
The rioting must be brought under control.
Work was tough today. It happens
because the TV says a new series is starting
on Disney channel next week.
Because the coming NFL season may be canceled.
It happens because it always happens,
because it has to happen.
Because we let it happen.

This is how?
This is how it happens.

It didn’t happen because of me.

It happened because of time, because of history,
because of the tides, the phases of the moon,
the zodiac signs, the shifting magnetic field,
because of the weather, because of everything
the other guy did.

It didn’t happen because of me.
It happened because of the lies of the attorney general.
But attorney generals always lie,
It happened because the president lied.
But presidents always lie.

It happened because old men grew weary of their beards
and fell asleep snoring in their rocking chairs;
it happened because young women were taught to be afraid;
it happened by greasing the skids, lining the palms, paying the piper;
we paid for it to happen?; it happened on Facebook and Twitter;
it was televised; it happened sponsored by Merck and Exxon;
it happened at Walmart, in the parking lot of Wendy’s;
it was not our choice, but we didn’t stop it, either.

It didn’t happen because of me.

It happened because of me.

It happened because of what I wanted
and what I didn’t want.
It happened because of my politeness
and my discomfort with conflict,
because I didn’t speak out, because my greatest
fear is public speaking, and because
democracy requires public speaking.

This is how it happened.
Some confusion at the polls,
uncertainty and the results delayed
just for a day or two.
It was hard not to wait.
All the pundits called for patience.
It was hard to be sure what was true.
It was hard to know what to do.
It happened while we watched it happen.
It happened while we wondered if it was happening.
It happened while everyone said it wasn’t happening.

I prayed it wouldn’t happen.

But it happened anyway.

This is how.

Ken Zimmerman 2020

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