The Periphery of Violence

Summer means sweltering nights and the sound of gunfire echoing over the lake as the tide turns, bringing the pelicans to the mussels near the surface. We have a sanctuary for birds built out over the water, a geodesic dome of chickenwire. Up the hill from where we live is indistinct shouting, threatening motors, more gunfire. It might be fireworks.

Coming out of her apartment one day, my sister watched a man gunned down on the street. She tells me the story over the phone, months later, muffled with depression in the middle of an unending midwestern winter; by that point it is no more than an interesting story. She walks by bloodstains on her way to work.

I am not a good teacher. One of my students is gone from class, days and then weeks: oh, he got jumped, they tell me, they beat him down with baseball bats, he’s in the hospital with a busted jaw. We take 25 feet of rope outside, pace the half circle of no smoking around the door, come inside and try, slowly, to figure out how much area they are barred from occupying.