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‘Shock Wave’: A Compelling Poem About the Boston Marathon Bombings

Posted on Mar 18, 2015

    The running shoes left as a makeshift memorial near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon was part of a 2014 exhibit at the Boston Public Library, “Dear Boston: Messages From the Marathon Memorial.”  (AP / Elise Amendola)

Leslie McGrath’s poem gives us an intimate look into a person’s mind in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings that took place on April 15, 2013. Listen to McGrath read “Shock Wave” and read along, below.

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Leslie McGrath reads "Shock Wave"

(0.4 MB)

Shock Wave

By Leslie McGrath

        Boston Marathon, 2013

Blow black powder and shrapnel blow
        a deathwind

then follows another kind of detonation—
        this one inward.

In the brain’s chapel
one pearled sulcus is aroused by sudden fear
while others snap into lockdown.

There are moments when survival depends on suspicion
and the mind’s ear turns vigilante

        gum heard as gun 
        coffee heard as coffin
        dread as dead

        There are moments that become eras
        Like this one          like this.


Leslie McGrath is a poet and literary interviewer. She is the author of “Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage” (2009), a poetry collection, and two chapbooks, “Toward Anguish” (2007) and “By the Windpipe” (2014). McGrath’s latest book is a satiric novella in verse, “Out From the Pleiades” (Jaded Ibis, 2014). She teaches creative writing and literature at Central Connecticut State University and is series editor of The Tenth Gate, a poetry imprint of The Word Works press in Washington, DC.

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Truthdig will publish poems that offer insight into current events and sociopolitical themes relevant to today’s world. From entries across the nation, Truthdig staff will select poems based on both their artistic qualities as well as the social issues they discuss. To read our guidelines and submit a poem for our consideration, click here.

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