“Mass Shootings: A Biography” by David Kirby

David Kirby


For most of history, multiple murders 
were an option for aristocrats: everyone 
else was too tired. Then people
moved to cities, got factory jobs,
had evenings and weekends off,
became more anxious: suddenly
they were living next to people
they didn’t know. In the early 1900s,
nervous disorders spiked as the spread
of information became faster and cheaper
and local stories became national news: 
if people were being killed in Spokane,
why not in your town? The long gun
became the Tommy gun became
the assault rifle, the technology 
speeding faster than our ability 
to fathom it. When Admiral Parry
sailed for the Arctic Circle,
his men carried food in tin cans, 
an invention so new that there were 
as yet no can openers.

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022


David Kirby: “There are daily killings in our country for many reasons, but the dozen or more mass shootings (generally defined as involving four or more victims) over a weekend that inspired this poem stem largely from a growth in firearm availability that is only partially understood by experts, largely opposed by the American public, and seemingly unstoppable.” (web)

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