In March, Gayle Gallagher asked me if I would be interested in writing a poem for the dedication of the Sean Collier Memorial. My immediate response was no, I can’t, I’m not W.H. Auden. Within an instant, I had corrected myself: If some of the students from my Advanced Poetry Workshop were willing to join me, then I was sure we could write a poem collaboratively. I approached the class; half of the students were willing to take the leap. For the next five weeks, during a series of dinners generously funded by the President’s Office, the 10 of us moved from brainstorming to drafting to refining our poem. The process required that we trust each other as well as the collaborative process itself. We were all working in uncharted territory; none of us had ever written a poem for a public occasion; none of us had ever worked with nine co-authors. Every one of us suggested language and ideas that were rejected by the group, and every one of us came up with phrases that persisted into the final draft. We ate a lot of sandwiches, we moved a lot of words around, and we practiced speaking those words from the deep centers of ourselves from which they had come. Together we wrote something none of us could have written alone, becoming, in our determination to address our larger community, a community of writers.
Here We Are
Performed at the dedication of the MIT Memorial to Officer Sean Collier
Wednesday, April 29, 2015 | 12 pm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A convergence of seekers,
servers, speakers, makers.
Alone we carry individual flames;
together we become a radiant constellation
honoring Sean Collier.
For many of us,
Sean was a source of light,
a source of warmth.
He talked to us, hiked with us, danced with us.
He was always among us. He still is.
Take a look around.
We come also to honor the recently lost,
fellow students and friends,
for every loss leaves a void.
Let our private sorrows
become as public as air,
as functional as granite.
The world tells us we are finite,
but our infinite inclinations
will touch mountaintops,
ocean floors, the edge of this world,
and the horizons of human experience.
Here we are not alone.
Here we learned
to hack our way into each other’s hearts.
Together we step out of the shadows,
each of our lives its own light source,
elevating every life we touch.
Two years ago we were sheltering in place;
today we celebrate a place of shelter.
Take a look around.
Open heart. Open mind. Open hand.
Written and performed by
Kaitlin Ahlers ’15
Nikhil Buduma ’16
Valentina Chamorro ’16
Jordan Cotler ’15
Erica Funkhouser, Lecturer, Comparative Media Studies | Writing
Ethan Klein ’15
Herbert Mehnert ’15
Shanasia Sylman ’15
Vivian Tran ’16