Texas Church Shooting: Tell Me Things Will Get Better

The first light of hope you give to everyone involved in tragedy is the very phrase “Things will get better.”  It is the go to move of basic human decency. But what hope have we offered those of mass shootings? As we gawk at them, admire their courage, and our hearts bleed for them; as we shift guilt around and make sure everyone knows, that no one is angrier about this than us– do we become so absorbed in displaying our sympathy and guilt, that we hurt the families who have lost even further?

This poem was written in light of the news that 26 church goers were murdered in  a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas including at least 8 members from a single family.

“things will get better”

by Poetry Ace, Steven Savio

walking through bruised streets
splattered with human remains
what remains of Tommy
after his family’s genocide
Sarah, Sue, Gloria, and Jim
also survived

no one can look at Jim
and pretend they don’t see our guilt reflecting in his eyes
Gloria and Sue are faking strong
and the governor will tote them around to ease our guilt
but no one can get it out of our minds
that Sarah, won’t pick dewberries anymore
and Tommy has no family to cry with

in a small town massacre
the bullets hit everyone
but the worst were the ones in the church
how gently they talk; how quickly they step;
what words make them lose their breath
becomes the towns biggest research

for pity’s purpose, everyone loves to look at them
loves to cry looking at them
dissecting their every movement
this one’s strong, that one’s weak
looking at them

everyone wondering
which of them will be next to die
who will be found in that old church
their last prayer and feet
just hanging in the breeze

when we catch them walking through the streets
the town peeks at them through shameful blinds
paralyzed with sympathy
antagonized by impotence in congress and in ourselves

no one says anything to them louder than their name
afraid the words might come out banging like a bullet
everyone speaks to them end to end
not a person could stomach seeing them
search the silence for gunmen

and we bleed just looking at them
as they look at the ground
knowing there is nothing for them to look forward for
nothing for them to look up to
knowing the sun won’t shine today
and we can’t promise it tomorrow
none of us with the courage to give them
the lie

Author’s Note

News headlines that grab the public’s attention prove that we want to feel grotesque– we want to be at the center of guilt, but not accepting it. We spend all our time proving our sympathy and our guilt, that we forget to actually be there for people. This poem is meant to channel that truth and display the worst of myself, and through that, probably you as well. It is easy to read this poem and recognize the pain of the victims, because that is the intended surface. The more challenging task is to be the villain; is to read this poem and recognize how we look at these events as the townspeople: impotent viewers dramatically speculating the outfall. 

To emphasize my point, I’ll leave you with this question:

We have all become practiced in how to debate the issue. We know every friend that will argue and every friend that will say amen, but is anyone more practiced in talking around those who were hurt? Has there ever been a global discussion on how we might comfort them or give them hope?

If you’d like to reach out and help those most impacted by the Texas church shooting, verified fundraisers are listed on the church’s website.