Saturday, April 21, 2007

Blacksburg, viewed from a great distance

Blacksburg seemed remote from Bangkok, until I realized that Mike Bishop's son had been killed. Mike Bishop is a writer whom, as a stylist, I've always hero-worshipped.

I've been there several times, been in that very building ... as guest of honor at a science fiction convention years and years ago. But even the fact that I might have stood in those very spots didn't make it real.

Mike Bishop's kid did, though. You see, twenty years ago or so, Mike and I were guests at some convention in Atlanta (I think). And we were due to appear on one of those panels. Self-aggrandisement was the order of the day, not to mention selling a few more books. But Mike didn't show up to the panel because he wanted to go to his son's little league game.

Writers, indeed all artists, can be narcissistic. So I remember thinking, what a great father Mike is. Kid's so lucky. I felt a kind of envy, too, because I didn't have one of those "normal" families. I remembered the kid's name as "Chris", but they called him "Jamie". He was the German teacher who was killed, and that ... that made it seem like it was happening right before my eyes, to a twelve-year-old kid in a baseball uniform.

I wrote to Mike about remembering that moment, and he wrote back, "I remember, at the same convention, having you play 'Fuer Elise' to me on the piano." Something I don't remember even slightly. The past is different things to different people I suppose.

A couple of days later I wrote a sonnet about the tragedy, because as my friends know I have a tendency to turn headlines into sonnets. And this is the poem:


It’s not my fault. You made me who I am,
Abused, reclused, and finally confused me.
So when that salesman didn’t care a damn,
No shrinks, pleas, plays, or ploys could have defused me.

It ain’t my fault. The law is clear as day,
And everything I’m told to tell, I tells ’em.
You can be psycho, wacko, schizo, mad, or gay —
That just ain’t my department. I just sells ’em.

It’s not our fault. We make these toys of steel
For recreation, not for retribution;
Statistics, demographics, can’t conceal
The rights God granted in our constitution.

While everybody cries “For shame, for shame,”
Why is there nobody to take the blame?