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.

sans love

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.


Now gone,

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




All mine.

I ask nothing more than that

She belong to me.

Only me.

All mine.


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.