A poem for Michael Martin

A poem for Michael Martin

Last night I attended a benefit concert, thinking that cello and piano and poetry would soothe my weary soul from the events of the past month–from my son’s diving accident, to my best friend’s car accident, to the tragedy in Brattleboro.

I had been writing incessantly for over a week since the shooting at the Co-op, and with my latest post, I felt that I might be finished.  Instead, I found my anguish stirred rather than soothed by last night’s performance, particularly when the poetry of the Romanian poet Eminescu was read.

detail, Dore, visipix.com

Unto the Star

‘Tis such a long way to the star
Rising above our shore
It took its light to come so far
Thousands of years and more.

It may have long died on its way
Into the distant blue
And only now appears its ray
To shine for us as true.

We see its icon slowly rise
And climb the canopy;
It lived when still unknown to eyes,
We see what ceased to be.

And so it is when yearning love
Dies into depth of night:
Extinct its flame, still glows above
And haunts us with its light.

~Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889)/translated by Adrian Sahlean

Kelly Salasin, August 20, 2011

(To see the full collection of posts and comments on BFC Tragedy, click here.)

Even the Potatoes are Sad

Even the Potatoes are Sad

If there is any place in Vermont that represents the best qualities of our state – a place where the community comes together to buy local, laugh, make friends and celebrate what we cherish about our lives – it is the Brattleboro Food Co-op.  (Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin)

That something like this could happen at our beloved Brattleboro Food Co-op is unfathomable.

That this act was intentional is confounding.

That the murderer was someone who lived and loved among us is heartbreaking.

That a life was stolen is devastating.

I write these words from vacation, 300 miles away from the Green Mountain State, knowing that I will miss tonight’s vigil in Brattleboro.  But even this far away, I am blessed by my community’s response to this loss, as echoed by the outpouring of solidarity on the Co-op’s Facebook page:

What a sad day for the coop and all of us in this community. (Ruth Wilmot)

It is 2 AM and I’m staring at this computer, wondering how many other of us Co-op members are sleepless from worry, shock and grief – after this saddening event. (Nancy Burgeson Anderson)

We are all feeling this. It is heartbreaking and horrible. Love to all of you close to the scene. No one is worrying about when the Coop will be open again. We *are* worrying about each of you. (Johnny Lee Lenhart)

You guys are all very dear to us. We are helpless to do anything to make this better, but our thoughts are very much with you, and I hope you will let us know if there is any way we can help.  (Ted Lemon)

We are all so stunned by this news. Our thoughts are with you and the families involved as you work through this difficult time. (Gail Graham)

I take heart that what is shared is supportive, and life serving, rather than filled with the rage or malice that takes lives:

This is a time to really appreciate facebook. Reading these comments heals me and hopefully others feel the same. Knowing how people from all over the country are holding our community and especially the staff of BFC in their hearts is so meaningful. (Bari Shamas)

Certainly we are all angry. That which has been stolen, has been stolen from us all–even from the one who took the life (maybe from him most of all); and I cannot begin speak to the grief of those who were intimate with the victim:

My heart aches at the news. Micheal was such a loving guy. He will be missed by many. (Karen Ernest Hatt)

Michael was a friend and will be missed. (Chris Maher)

It is impossible to know the right thing to say. Michael was a good guy and will be missed in the co-op community.  (David Lippman)

I’m saddened to admit that I cannot place Michael from memory; but no doubt I will recognize his face–and even his kindness–as we all “know” each other in Brattleboro, especially in the aisles of the Co-op.

Given my lack of intimacy, I question the depth of my grief, until I read how deeply others have been affected by this loss, not just in Brattleboro or Vermont, but all around the country, and even around the world:

 Sending much love and healing prayers from Thailand. (Nathan Olmstead)

It’s 3:30 in the morning in Vancouver. Neither Cliff (a former employee) nor I can sleep. We are thinking of all of you in the community and send our love. (Lynn Levine)

My heart is broken today. Please know I am sending you my support from afar. The co-op isn’t just a place where I used to work; it is like a family home to me. (Wendy M. Levy)

It is a little crazy that i feel more connected to a store 200 miles away from my home than i do the stores right down the street- but i feel like i know you guys after 4+ years of stopping in for dinner once a week (sometimes more.) It’s a neighborly, small town family feel, and familiar faces, and that is one of the reasons why i love coming to Brattleboro. (Stephanie Santoro)

In addition to the personal expressions of grief, there are the “collective”–messages from co-ops in Belfast, Maine; in Oregon, in Texas, in California, in New Orleans.

As I read through this flood of personal and collective grief, I get a renewed sense of what a Co-op is; how it touches lives; how it connects them:

My heart is aching for the individuals and the collective… ever faithful that you all will make your way through this in a manner that has me falling in love with my co-op all over again. tender blessings… ♥ (Kim Weeter)

When you reopen again, you will feel a tidal wave of love, all of you who work there, who make our days just that much richer. It will be a hard day, but the town will speak to your hearts, and you will remember why you are here. (Jack MacKay)

In addition to messages from individuals and other co-ops, there is now a growing response from companies who sell their products to these stores:

All of us at Baudelaire Soaps offer our deepest sympathies and condolences.

There is something oddly moving by sentiment expressed by soap. It somehow speaks to what is also precious at the Co-op: the heart and passion of the people behind each product.

It’s hard to fathom the breadth of this single act, taken by Richard Gagnon, our wine manager, who traveled the world with his beloved wife Meg, to bring us the sweetness of the vine.

Today, even the potatoes are sad:

Your friends at Small Potatoes offer our deepest sympathies and condolences.


Kelly Salasin, August 10, 2011, Brattleboro Food Co-op Shopper/Member since ’94, past staffer

Click here for, Dear Richard, An Open Letter to a Murderer.