The mason asks the prophet to speak of houses
And he says: In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together
And that fear shall endure a little longer
So here we are in our fear-built houses
And I think of the Stand-Your-Ground laws and the Castle Doctrine
And the shootings that have ensued
To preserve the sanctity of the home
George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin become names
Branded on this nation’s skin
Searing our conscience
When you do not know the one who would approach you, or the one you would follow,
Who becomes the enemy?
Is it he or you?
Is he the lurker, or are you the fox in the sheep-fold?
Who are the sheep that you would save as you fatten them for the kill?
Fear targets us when we try to outgun it.
In my neighborhood
Where we dwell cheek by jowl
In our houses close-built on marshland at the turn of the 20th century
—the refuge, then, of the last Indians in town--
We still shudder at the death of the young musician
Who, stumbling home drunk, entered the wrong house
—O Paulie O Paulie—(I never knew you when you were alive
and yet I call out to you as if you were a neighbor child that I must watch for)
When she heard a clatter in the hallway, a fear-filled mother grabbed her child
Ran behind an upstairs door
Phoned for help—911
Was it friend or foe who clattered below?
She didn’t know
An intruder cannot make an innocent mistake.
If we guard our lives with gunfire.
Why would the police in my town—once officers of the peace—
now be trained to shoot to kill—to aim not at kneecap, ankle or wrist
But at the chest—the most massive target
Though the heart in that chest may be
life’s best chance
to better itself?
Fear has built our houses too close
So that love that would make us visible to each other
Is crowded out
So that love is lost
In the unbuilt wilderness
Where fear also stands sentinel