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For the Binghamton Mass Shooting Victims, Michael Klein’s “The Talking Day”

By Michael Klein

American Civic Association Memorial Park at dusk. Photo credit: Michael Marsland
American Civic Association Memorial Park at dusk. Photo credit: Michael Marsland

Ten years ago today, the thirteenth-deadliest mass shooting in US history took place. Thirteen people were killed in the mass shooting at the American Civic Association immigration center in Binghamton, New York, during a class on citizenship. In response to the tragedy, poet Michael Klein wrote “The Talking Day.”


Some lunatic with a gun killed some people at an
immigration center in Binghamton, New York. Liz
Rosenberg and her family live up there and David, her
husband, teaches in the middle school which is close to
all the action (the way, in any smallish town, everything is
close to all the action). I called Liz to see if everyone was
all right and she was in her car driving to the elementary
school to pick up Lily, her young daughter she brought
back from China a few years ago. Lily was fine, but
Liz wanted to move her outside the question of how to
make sense of the broken pieces of “someone” with a
gun walking into a public space and then firing. There’s
something called (I learned from a news report the day of
the shootings at Virginia Tech) The Talking Day which
refers to the day immediately following the day when
something wildly violent happens. No one quite grasps
the reality of the situation and everyone spends that first day
talking about what happened and reliving it as language—
not so much to understand the violence but to make a
kind of recording of it: talking about it, letting go of it,
putting it down. And so I imagine it must be with Liz and
Lily and David in Binghamton, New York today: letting
“something” go. Liz is in her car after having just picked up
Lily at school and driving back home through a town that
suddenly makes no sense and she is telling the story about
what happened when a young man walked into a building
with a gun. And for Lily, who’s had a pretty serene, un-
violent United States time so far and whose endless joy
has made her an adorable chatterbox, tomorrow could be
her first talking day. Or, if not tomorrow, some other day.
We live in a talking day world.

Michael Klein’s “The Talking Day” appears in his collection The Talking Day and in Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, edited by Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, and Dean Rader.


About the Author 

Michael Klein is a Lambda Literary award-winning fiction writer, poet, and faculty member of the English department at Goddard College and The Frost Place Conference on Poetry.