river of change

Singing provides a place for grief to move
through the thousand thunderous memories
that flash in bits and pieces
pulsing pictures of your son’s short life—
toothy grins and tomato soup,
grass stained whisperings,
your spit smudging dirt
from his soft pink cheek.

Days count themselves empty
since children and teachers lay crumpled
in red pools of dying self
on December 14.

As the media dish moves beyond Sandy Hook,
singing pulses its balm through crowds
massing movement through hearts,
transforming pain through prayers
that carry messages of love.

Your voices move like a river carving channels
through the spirit of our land,
creating conduits for hope’s flowing grace.

Brenda Warren 2013

Francine and David Wheeler lost six year old Ben in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. This piece is my response to an interview with Francine, David, and Peter Yarrow (from Peter, Paul and Mary) on Bill Moyer’s show, Moyers & Company. You can see the show in its entirety here. The video above is Francine Wheeler and Dar Williams singing Family. It makes me cry every time.

Visit The Sunday Whirl.


27 thoughts on “river of change

  1. Wonderful write, Brenda. Not an easy subject to write about with such grace. On the video, I am a huge fan of Dar. She is one of my favourites. I couldn’t watch it all the way through without crying.



  2. “The red pools of dying self” is exactly how a parent feels when they lose a child. Sadly our society is becoming inured to tragedy. Somehow we must try to fight our way out of this mindset. Every word we write should be a rallying call for humanity. Thank you for your words.


  3. Brenda, first off, thanks for the Wordle. Did you ever get my “Brave New Wordle,” from Huxley?

    I saw this Moyers special today, ironically, because I can still feel the sting of tears when the mom came out and sang that song with Dar. Also, the powerful witness of Peter Yarrow, still fighting the good activist fight with words, not violence. This is the heart of activism.

    When will they ever learn? You really moved me with this poem, Brenda. Thanks again, and I hope more folks click on the link. It’s an extraordinary story… and a girl from my high school was the teacher who shielded those children. We knew her as Mary Greene, her maiden name.

    Peace, Amy


  4. Brenda – beautiful poignant piece there. Yes we move on but the parents are still dealing with aftermath.

    Days count themselves empty
    since children and teachers lay crumpled
    in red pools of dying self
    on December 13.

    just perfect


  5. “Singing provides a place for grief to move…” sits well with me. especially as i hum with my grief at times.

    I was pulled by “toothy grins and tomato soup,”
    And “grass stained whisperings”

    I felt that child. I felt the pain. Your ode made me
    feel the loss especially with your
    later reference to six-year-old Ben lost in the
    “massacre” at Sandy Hook.



  6. I like your tribute here and hope this experience can indeed become a river of change. Thanks again for the words.


  7. This is my favorite part:

    grass stained whisperings,
    your spit smudging dirt
    from his soft pink cheek

    Who can’t picture this or remember doing it? I love having images like this to focus on rather than the atrocities happening in the world around us.


  8. Sad and tragic but the family coping their loss is heart wrenching!! Innocent lives are put down before they even venture out in the world to do their bit, this trend is so disturbing!!


    • Thank you. With the backdrop of a sick dog, I was grieving in my own way yesterday. The entire video is worth watching, more than once. Francine and David Wheeler speak with eloquence and grace. They share their pain to work through grief, and hope to promote change.


  9. This is incredibly beautiful and well written. Grief moving through memories in song. I get it. The last stanza is perfect. It’s odd, but these words brought me to “grief” also, and I really wasn’t sure why.


  10. A moving poem about one of the greatest tragedies in our country’s history. So many beautiful, poignant lines. I really liked “thousand thunderous memories.”

    “Conduits for hope’s flowing grace” is an inspiring line. The pain etched in Francine’s face is heart-breaking.


    • The show is worth watching. I’ve seen it twice in its entirety, and find myself watching both songs again and again. Powerful stuff. I’m glad you like the piece, Marianne. It started yesterday after my first view of the video. Then I watched it again and tweaked it, and then one more time through the first segment with Francine and Peter Yarrow. I’m cried out, but the beauty that brings tears is gripping in part because of where it springs from….if that makes sense.


share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s