A Gunman Who Expressed Hatred of Jews Exploited Doors That Were Unlocked for Worship - Associated Press, Oct 27th 2018

Nisa Malli

In wielding the gun
the gunman becomes

a new kind of compound
noun, capable only of indirect

action: the expression
of hatred, making

of threats, rending
of clothes. He owned

more than a minyan
and brought four to shul

on Shabbat morning. What do we
unlock in worship

that needs locking
down beyond the safety

of numbers? The collective
noun for worshippers: once

a prayer, now a risk. A risk
of worshippers here

to keep the dead
company ‘til burial, here

to mend the walls built to hold
the sound of mourning.


Author Statement:

I wrote this poem in response to the shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Congregation on October 27, 2018, for our communal grief, and to reflect on the ways in which some of the media coverage (including the Associated Press headline from which I take my title) have rendered the acts of the gunman in passive language, as though the responsibility for these deaths lies somewhere outside his hands. I write in recognition of the difficult labour the chevra kadisha of this congregation did in the aftermath of the shooting to ensure the bodies of the dead were properly cared for, the caretakers of religious spaces everywhere who have to contend with the risk of violence and vandalism, and with thanks to Kathy Fish's Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild for providing a poetic device for thinking about how violence changes the collective.

Learn more about Turtle Island Responds

Nisa Malli is a writer and researcher, born in Winnipeg and currently living in Toronto. Her poems and essays have been published in Arc Poetry, Carte Blanche, Cosmonauts Avenue, Grain, GUTS, Maisonneuve, Policy Options, and elsewhere. She holds a BFA in writing from the University of Victoria and has completed residencies at the Banff Centre and Artscape Gibraltar Point. 

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