Today, NPR reminds me that five plainclothes New Orleans police officers murdered James Brissette, 17, & Ronald Madison, 40, and seriously wounded four others trying to cross Danziger Bridge to escape flooding six days after Hurricane Katrina.

I had forgotten about that. Maybe breathed it in once, years ago, felt its poison leech into capillaries, then sighed it out toward the clouds.

Too much hurt at once, back then, to remember every story. How could we track all the ways we injure each other? And who would take that job? There are so many atrocities occurring at just this moment, and I'll hear of only one or two. Can you fault me for being relieved?

In my own body, a vein slowly occludes, building steam before that sticky bullet can rip through my lungs.

I grind my jaw so often, one side swells and radiates down my neck, beneath my shoulder blade & collarbone, so every breath bores deeper into the body I'm trying to salvage.

Everyone I love is dying of either cancer or hope.

There are so many reasons to give up on this life, but I keep finding one or two so I can ground myself in the new day.

I tell Alyssa this, and she hugs me. A deep hug that makes me believe again in old souls. I feel the sky tumbling down as a clear rain rinsing acid & used-up cells from muscle folds.

Then the baby inside her kicks, maybe because the energy we exchange has blanketed him, and I remember that in a month, I will be Uncle MadBear.

I'll sing Motown & Brill Building to him when he cries: Ooo baby, when I see your face/ Mellow as the month of May/ Oh darlin, I can't stand it/ When you look at me that way.

He’ll watch me & Niles embrace each time we say hello & goodbye, and know each man charts the boundaries of his own affection. And one day, at a Vols tailgate, we’ll probably pass him his first pull of whiskey.

I take a breath that seems to fill a third lung, exhale a year of worry, and kiss Alyssa's cheek. Tomorrow, I have another reason to dig my heels into this perilous earth. And another poem to write.

for Alyssa, Niles, & Arthur