Matt Mason, the state poet of Nebraska, wrote “The Start” in response to last week’s violent melee at the Capitol. It’s the second “news poem” he has written for The New York Times in recent months; the first, called “When Asked What I Am Thankful For,” was part of a collection solicited from state poets laureate across the country at Thanksgiving.


It probably started
in a whisper, a murmur,
a low tone hardly caught by the papers,
a sticker, a poster,
a brick wall with slogans in fresh, black paint
because
it probably started with a shove,
some bluster, a gunshot,
crushed fingers, it probably started
with a speech that caught the right ears
on an otherwise happy day,
yellow flowers in a wooden stand on the sidewalk,
red apples, radio
trying hard to smooth out the mood,
kid hurrying past, thinking,
God, is that man on the corner
shouting
about me,
pulls his hat low,
it probably started
with another man
drunk on swagger,
it probably started
with a small crowd
coaxing exciting lies,
it probably started
with a neighborhood’s head bowed
as the drone grows each day
(though they’ll claim
it came
in a quick, monstrous surprise).

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