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  • Alan Soldofsky

from Charts (For The End of Days)

Why not say what really happened?

—Robert Lowell

May 11

I want to begin to say what we heard

on the news. Though there were different versions,

three people died. Shot to death on the fifth

floor of the 10th Street Garage. The forbidding

one, where you could vanish trying to get out.


Some said the alert system didn’t work,

or worked alright for some. Some heard six or eight

shots. A few in houses nearby said they

heard two rounds of popping sounds. Dozens

of others were on the sidewalk wondering

what happened. While others still in classrooms

reported they heard nothing.


We don’t know anything yet about them—

their names, their ages, sex. Only that they were

connected to the university,

their lives unnoticed announced by their deaths.


It was reported that two earthquakes, 4.5

and 5.1, struck near the town of Lorca,

Spain. Twenty thousand buildings damaged.

The Red Cross said it took 350

ambulances to evacuate the town’s two hospitals,

a medieval town located near a fault that runs

beneath the blue Mediterranean, where the European

and African plates converge. The second

the worst, occurring at 6:47 P.M. local time—

that’s 5:47 P.M. in London; 12:47 A.M. in New York;

9:47 P.M. in San José, CA. The garage

blocked off. Police still swarming.

May 12

I take pills for what ails me: Lisinsopril

for high blood pressure, Ranitidine for

acid reflux, to kill the ratty aftertaste

of esophagus. I don’t sleep lying down,

tasting what gravity brings up. Kaiser

wants to keep me alive, though I don’t like

them really. There are tests that I avoid, though

it would be wise to know what might be

prevented from killing me. But I’d rather not.


The dead have been identified, accounting

majors, honor students, 25 and 26. The young man

walked his classmate to her car on the fifth

floor of the garage, where they were met by

the young woman’s husband, 54, shooting.

All are Filipino Americans. They

were found in a black Mercedes, the husband

found shot and gravely wounded a short

distance away. A handgun at his side.

He died at the hospital. The husband had been

married before, and divorced in 2003.

It was known he had filed for bankruptcy,

that he had worked in research and development

for a medical-device company according to the

Chronicle. There was an audible gasp,

it was reported, at the news conference

when officials said both were on the verge

of graduating. The professor who taught

them said it was domestic violence

that had spilled over, that he was in the wrong

place at the wrong time. The young man was married,

an avid golfer, and worked as an accounts payable

analyst for Oracle Corp. and on campus as a student

assistant. A motive for the shooting is unknown.

In 1967 Lou Reed sang “I guess that I just

don’t know.” … “Thank God I’m as good

as dead and thank your God that I’m not aware

and thank God that I just don’t care.”

How could he have known it would be a hit?


The San Jose Sharks defeated the Detroit

Red Wings 3 – 2 in the seventh and deciding

game, earning them a berth in the Conference

Final against the Vancouver Canucks.

The Sharks up 2 – 0 in the first period,

were leading 3 -1 in the third when

the Wings attempted a furious comeback

but fell short, unable to score on their last

power play. The Sharks had gone up

in the series 3 – 0, but had lost the next three

so the series was tied 3 games to 3

going into the seventh game. Patrick Marleau

scored the Shark’s third goal with 7:47 left to

play and helped the Sharks avoid their biggest

collapse yet. His coach Todd McClellan

said, “I think the monkey may be off his

back for the next series” Marleau grew up

on his family’s farm near Aneroid, Saskatchewan,

but was born in Swift Current. There is no

hospital in Aneroid. He didn’t

want to take the blame if the Sharks had choked.


With the heads of all big five oil companies

watching, a Democratic U.S. Senator

played video of a hearing from 2005

where oil company executives said they

didn’t need government tax breaks. The Chevron

Corporation Chairman and CEO said the

companies didn’t want special tax benefits—

just benefits that other industries

get. Oil now sells for more than $100 a barrel.

Chevron is projected only to make

a $123 billion profit this year.

One in five U.S. workers are at least

in their mid-fifties, and 29 million

are 55 years or older. Author

Marc Freeman said on the PBS

“Nightly Business Report” that that they work

is a virtue out of necessity.

May 13

You can decide for yourself whether you

believe Friday the 13th brings bad luck.

The idea appears to have taken

hold in the twentieth century, its

sources, likely of late medieval

origin, can be traced back as far as the

ancient Egyptians, for whom we are told

13 symbolized death, the final stage

of ascension to the afterlife. Or it

could go back to vilified matriarchal

beliefs, the 13 lunar—menstrual—cycles.

Some trace the fear back to the Vikings, when

12 gods were invited to a banquet

in Vahalla, and Loki—the Evil One—

crashed the party and wreaked havoc.

The Norse continued to believe that 13

people at a dinner party is bad luck.

Which may also come from a Christian source,

there being 13 present at Christ’s last

supper, which took place incidentally,

on a Friday. Friday already had a bad

rap; it was the day Eve tempted Adam

with the apple. The great flood began on

Friday, Solomon’s temple was destroyed

on Friday. And of course Christ was

crucified on Friday, which is also

the Sabbath for non-Christians. Orthodox

Jews for instance and Muslims do not indulge

in worldly activities less they be

denied the divine blessing. Early Christians

went to great lengths to suppress them as heathens.

Jews some claim were also arrayed into

13 tribes, and for Jews 13 is said to

be a lucky number. For Jews 13

signifies the age of bar mitzvah, and

according to Moses Maimonides,

the number of the faith’s principles. In

1907, Thomas William Lawson,

published Friday, the Thirteenth, a novel

about how a broker, cashing in on

the superstition caused panic in the

stock market. That book’s sales took off

allowing the press to popularize

the phobia mounting behind it.


Three months after the ouster of Hosni

Murbarak, a crime wave has swept over

Egypt. Neighbors reported they watched

as about 80 prisoners, some

according to the New York Times clad only

in underwear, brandishing guns, machetes,

even a fire extinguisher, burst through

the police station’s doors, as shots rang out.

The police are afraid. At least five jailbreaks

and increasing disorder have led to talk

of a new crackdown. A colleague is leaving

for Egypt tomorrow to meet with Egyptian

poets. An Interior Ministry

official said that everyday prisoners

attempt to escape. Newspapers “brim”

with episodes of violence: Muslim-

Christian riots, churches in flames; soccer

fans who crashed a field and mauled the opposing

team; mob attacks on upscale suburbs;

Bedouin abductions of police in the Sinai.

This, what journalists dubbed “the Arab Spring.”


Cardinals’ manager Toni La Russa

was diagnosed by the Mayo Clinic

with shingles, MLB announced on Tuesday.

La Russa will miss the rest of the road trip

to allow the medication to take effect.

Bench Coach Joe Pettini said “La Russa’s

condition had reached the point where something

had to be done. He’s in been in agony.”

The entire right side of his face swollen,

it was an effort for him just to keep

his eyes open. If you’ve had chicken pox

as a kid you can get shingles. We’re told

a million Americans get shingles

each year, and that one third of us will get

it in our lifetimes. Shingles is most common

for people over 50. The Centers

for Disease Control recommend vaccine

for people over 60. Probably

I should go to Kaiser now, get a shot.

These three sections are from a much longer work. Read more about the poem in our interview with Alan Soldofsky here.

Alan Soldofsky is the author of the 2013 collection of poems, In the Buddha Factory (Truman State University Press). With David Koehn, he is coeditor of Compendium: A Collection of Thoughts About Prosody, by Donald Justice. He is a professor of English and Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at San Jose State University.

Image courtesy of Artur Rydzewski

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