Academic journal article The Hudson Review

How It Happened

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

How It Happened

Article excerpt

December 4, 1851

The boy had taken two shots in the head.

The apartment, though neat, was small,

with a crucifix over a family portrait.

His grandmother wept while we undressed him.

Speechless, his gray lips fell open. Death

had drowned out in his eye the last wild look.

His arms hung limp, as if they needed to be held.

He had in his pocket a boxwood top and string.

My forefinger would have fit in either wound.

Have you seen blackberries bleed? His skull

had been punched through easily as punkwood.

The old woman watched us strip him naked, saying:

He never looked this white! Bring me the lamp.

His hair, poor thing, it's stuck to his forehead.

With this she took him in her lap. The night

was an impossible depth of sadness. Rifles

in the street said, More now! You! Now you!

One of us inside said, Here, let's wrap the boy

in a sheet. And his grandmother carried him

to the fireside, as if his limbs

might still be warmed, even while invisible

cold hands went tight around them.

She lowered her head and pulled off his socks,

and took the corpse's feet in her cupped palms.

It breaks your heart, she said. Not

eight years old! His teachers gave him good

reports. And when I needed to send a letter,

he was the one who wrote it. So,

are they murdering children now? My God!

Somebody tell me: are these people soldiers?

After breakfast, he was here at the window,

playing. This afternoon, he went walking

up that street, and they just shot him. …

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