Louisville Magazine

DEC 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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84 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 12.18 Grief in Verse On Oct. 24, 2018, the day of the Kroger shooting in Jeffersontown, Kiki Petrosino was thinking about going grocery shopping. She wouldn't have gone to that Kroger, where a white man killed two black people — Maurice E. Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, both in their 60s — and reportedly told an armed bystander that "whites don't kill whites." But she'd been to that Kroger before, and really, if one Kroger isn't safe, are any? "It literally did hit very close to home," Petrosino says. "As an African-American in Louisville, when I found out later…that racial comments had been uttered and that it seemed to have been a hate crime, I defi- nitely felt exposed and vulnerable." (The shooter has since been charged with federal hate crimes.) After the shooting, we asked Petrosino, a poet and the head of the creative writing department at U of L, to write something for the magazine. At first, she thought of composing a letter to the city, like she had done when she addressed the president of her alma mater, the University of Virginia, after racist violence overtook Charlottesville in 2017. But she decided to write a poem instead, one that would address a higher power. When she started working on "Psalm," she didn't know the shooter had tried to enter a black church before going to the Kroger, though the connection to a holy place seems inextricable from the poem. "Psalm" begins with a proliferation of names for the Divine, incorporating themes from a hymn called "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," which Petrosino says is important to the Afri- can-American community and often sung at funerals. The idea of the hymn is that God cares about every little sparrow, so he certainly must care about you. Petrosino isn't a highly religious person, but she believes the poem addresses more than just one notion of God. "We have to ask for vision and we have to ask for PSALM Dear Lord, Dear High Remembrancer Dear Providential Love—have mercy. Have mercy, thou Surveyor of Wildflowers, Assessor of Royal & Exquisite Bee-Realms. Have mercy, Ledger Who Tracks Us in the Night, Who Measures Without Speaking Our Dark Trespasses. For nothing here survives— not the gold-legged deer, browsing the bleached office park at dawn nor the minute finch on her branch of long division— but thou, thou, thou absorb it, all. O, Gazer, be kind in thy absorbing calculus. Won't be long before thy reckoning curve arrives at the junction of our error. How, beneath thy Mineral Eye we walk abroad, forgetting thee, Cartographer of Sparrows. guidance, and we can ask for that from whatever higher power we happen to believe in. We can also ask it from each other, like: What kind of community do we want to live in? How do we want to treat each other? And then we can ask it of ourselves, too. "All of those things I mention (in the poem), those names always exist within each of us. So by calling the name of the Divine, you're also calling it from within yourself, too." — Dylon Jones A Louisville poet contemplates the Kroger shooting. BACK BOARD Photo by Mickie Winters

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