Laments: Five Reflections
Written by Kenneth Robbins
Extracted from A SONG OF JOSEPHINE, a collection of poems based on the murder of a young woman who lived in search for her life.
Josephine’s Lament: The Sully Touch
What I touch I sully:
Taint, defile, soil, tarnish, stain, blemish, pollute, spoil, mar, besmirch, befoul.
In grammar school, I tainted the classroom with my questions.
In church, I defiled the pew on which I sat by not questioning enough.
In dating, I soiled the lips that I kissed.
Friendships I tarnished without fail.
My pet collie named “Fred” I stained with petting.
With cheap creams I blemished my face.
I polluted my body with diet Coke.
I spoiled my hair with impatience.
I mar my life with all that I touch.
I sullied my job and am not worthy of being employed.
I sully all that I touch, that which I touch is sullied.
I besmirch my name
And befoul my future
And pray to a sneering God
That I might lose the Sully Touch.
I left momma’s home and failed in that.
I married Lee and quickly sullied that as well.
I left Lee to explore my defiling life.
And without looking far, found this other,
A man with a touch like mine,
A man full of smiles and idiotic jokes,
A man with needs so akin to mine,
A man who is determined
To sully me.
Lee’s Lament: Too Much/Too Little
Imagine this, me, ten inches long.
No hair, no teeth, ten fingers, two feet
and lungs with a siren’s song.
Now that I am five feet longer,
with most teeth, ten toes, two hands
and muscles a good bit stronger:
the same human creation,
the same me, now as then.
as of today when she said “Leave.”
which I did
with an acceptance that I,
even now, cannot conceive.
I have trouble
imagining me at two feet or even three,
me with frizzled hair still
and teeth falling free,
me with few words to express
what I most despairingly need,
the thing I called “My Love.”
She said get, so I go,
I don’t know why though.
“Welcome home, my boy,” my mom says,
though I don’t know why.
“She tossed me out,” I say,
and she says, “Good.
I never liked that woman from the start.”
Like. Such a shapeless word.
equal to Love
in its own way.
“You brought her home,” she says,
“And I knew. She had no heart.
She would do you dirt.
You my most precious one.”
I gather my guts and stop by her place
and struggle to resist the urge
to smash her dainty face.
I ask, “What did I do wrong?”
And she says, “I suppose
you loved me too much.”
I gather my things and leave again.
Thinking tomorrow we might
perhaps attempt another start.
So little do I know
the content of her heart.
Her thought: Loving too much.
To love at all is so little,
for a man like me who was
reared to be brittle. But
to love too much?
That remains in my mind
an impossible riddle.
I know my love for her
was less than I thought.
Love too much, love too little.
Fail to love at all.
What else is there except affection
reciprocated and shared,
call it what you will.
But too much love?
What pain you wrought.
Too little more likely than not.
Blayne’s Lament: Mine
All the good ones have been taken.
I’ve said this hundreds of times,
And meant it, mostly.
Then, she entered my life, my angel.
Josephine, oh glorified Josephine.
She begins my life anew
Each time we clasp our hands,
Each time our lips compress,
Each time my sperm explodes inside her womb.
I inform her so she knows: she is
She is all that I need,
And need her is my creed.
Need her sweetness to leaven my darkness,
Her brain to balance my dullness,
Her gentle touch to replace my blows,
Her faith to quell my despair.
Nothing else is necessary,
As long as she is
I ask nothing more than that
She belong to me.
No other claim but
Any claim other than
I will deal with
Mama’s Lament for the Miracle Child
When she entered a room,
It was as if a light had turned on.
My daughter, my miracle child,
Glowed with goodness and love.
“Mama, you’re my bestest friend,”
She was oftentimes heard to say,
Not only to me, but to anyone:
“Daddy, you’re my onliest beau.”
“Daddy, you’re my building block.”
“LeeLee, you’re my comfort zone.”
“Mama, you’re my Gibraltar stone.”
“I could not live were it not for you.”
She phoned me every day, literally,
Never failed, after her work was done.
Called me, greeted me with joy,
Such joy, such enormous love and need.
Once when her smile was weak, I asked
“Is that man treating you well, my dear?”
And she answered like a candle
Going out, “As well as I deserve.”
“You deserve only the best,”
I should have said, but didn’t.
It’s her life, not mine, I erroneously felt.
“Only what’s best,” I should have said.
There came that day, that dreaded day
When my phone did not ring,
And I knew, here, in my core, something
Had wrested my miracle child from me.
Papa’s Lament: Nothing Left
It is not right for a parent, for me,
To outlive his child, my baby.
It is a perversion of the way
Things are intended to be.
I see the coffin, poised to be lowered.
They tell me it holds her body, musty and cold.
The lid is closed, so I am left with nothing and
Believe what I am told.
A dad whose only spawn
Is hidden from his view,
Has little worth remaining
And even less to do.
That is who I am,
The one with no value,
Nothing left but the belief
That the predictions of heaven are true.
A better place, that is what they claim,
My baby has gone from here
And resides with angels and harps
And an envious freedom from care.
They tell me this monster
Who put a pistol to my baby’s breast
And discharged it without a flinch
Will pay for his crime. That’s my request.
I hope his payment is sublime,
That he forfeits the rest of his life,
Locked in a windowless cell,
With cockroaches and rats for spite.
I am asked: Will you forgive this man
If he is found guilty of this deed?
And I say: Yeah, sure, I forgive him,
And may God forgive me my unbearable grief.
I forgive. But I lie, I lie, I lie, I lie! I
Could put a pistol between his eyes
And discharge its load and blow
His brain to darkest hell. With ease.
But if I should, accomplish
Such a vengeful aim,
Who would forgive me?
Or would I be the one all would blame?
I am left alone in this empty shell.
Alone in my newly discovered living hell.
Who among you can understand
That a parent who lives beyond his spawn
Is a parent with nothing left
But an empty, airless, pitiful yawn.