Tilting Away From The Light

Part of my job, part of my heart,

To ring the old bell, irregular, in the church at home.

On Sunday there is a deacon to do it

and there are always children

jumping toward the rope.


But it was Friday and Solstice and twenty six lives

Cut off in Connecticut needed to be marked.

No one around in the morning,

All of us tearing up silent somewhere;

And part of my job.


Tug the rope once,

The big bell stirred.

Tug twice, the great bell rang.

Tug three times,

And the blind bell rang on past my power to stop it

Until it told all the deaths it ever knew.


Can you feel the sun tug back?

Is there a pull on our tilt away from light,

Our declination, inclination, away from place and out toward empty?


I rang the bell for all the children murdered by one more ruined boy.

Six for the teachers;

Then one for his mother

And one last at the end for the man he never became.


I tolled the number;

Told of a gaping wound,

A wrong staring back at us.

It felt at least there was an “us”

Being stared at

Being fathomed,

Found shallow

Not beyond measure or number, but plain garden deadly.



Locking up, I remembered my own gun years ago.

A shepherd then, I needed it to protect and dispatch sheep.



I remembered a coyote, broadside, in the hayfield opposite.

A sheep, paralyzed after being hit by a log truck,

Who needed release.

And mostly a fox with mange

Blind and mad

Mincing lethally toward the lower barn and the lamb pens

Led on by scent

And me standing in the doorway shouting to warn him away.

Was he deaf?

Another and another his single file bejeweled steps

Until I blew his life away into the silence.

I imagined I could see as clear as I could sight.


In the new silence after violence

I rang the bell into the wind of the earth’s turning

That bears it all away

And still can’t seem to bear it all.


Music rises. The spirits, they say, rise,

But o my God,  this heavy fall.


Stephen Philbrick

One Response

  1. Rosemary Graf
    Rosemary Graf January 16, 2013 at 4:36 PM | | Reply

    Thank you for a powerful poem. It’s time we all don’t forget the shooter that never reached his manhood. Yes, I came from a family that each child was taught about guns. I failed my Dad because when it came time for me to kill a doe, I uttered “How beautiful she is?*. I was told by my Dad go home to your Mom and work for her. From that day I have worked to make guns limit to the responsible. However, it seems as if our trouble people have easy access to guns.
    I also want at this time to wish you success in your upcoming hip replacement. I know that Ken’s hips replacement has given him many more years. Cooley Dickenson Hospital had him up walking faster than the VA hospital did for his last surgery (his original surgeon had died when he needed the second replaced.). Good Luck.
    Thank you again for filling me with hope that this Country will survive this rough time.
    Rosemary Graf

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