Beautiful Noise


"You'n make a magpie talk


you just catch 'em and split

his tongue; when

it heals, he c'n


In 1968 a twelve-year-old boy

killed a neighbor child.

In the must damp of a backyard


afternoon light



from one window grey with dirt,

he had gently bullied her into

nakedness and


the shining marvel of her hairless, breastless

body in that


crystal light.

He put no hands upon her,

but his neck gleamed cold with guilt.

When she slipped from her panties,

graceless as a child beside a bath,

she saw then, reading fear and hunger

in his face

that he was naked;

she, just nude.

He said, "Don't tell no body."

She held both their lives

in her hands then, and felt

the innocent power of a child

who knows matches make fire,

has them,

but has never felt

the melt of polyester on her skin.

She said nothing.

"Don't tell no one. Okay?"

She began to dress.

"Jesse. Don't tell my mom. Okay?"

Her silence was ominous

with power. She

knew that surely she had not wanted

to do this thing; surely

she had been violated.

"You won't tell, will you?"

"I gotta go home now."

"Say you won't tell?"

His eyes were stark,


she was frightened then.

She would tell.

"Please, Jessie. Mom'll really whip me? Don't tell, huh?"

"My dress got cobwebs on it."

"Jessie." He held her arm, fierce and desperate.

"Don't say nothin'. I'll give you

my allowance.

I mean it."

Then it was time to be afraid,

and she invoked the only power she knew:

"Lemme go, or I'll tell my mom."

When she thought to say she would not tell,

it was too late;

His hands were on her throat and


strangled her too well,

faster than she could speak,

lost at the end in

the wonder of watching

death shine in her face,

more real here, in Jessie, than

in birds killed with rocks,

in mashed bugs,

in carp stoned at a neighbor's pond.

Two weeks they kept the frightful hunt–

they offered unasked bribes to

unknown kidnappers;

they sought degenerates and walked

their children home.

They dredged the river, scarcely deep

enough to hide her,

opened every freezer at the dump.

Then a white-lipped boy

told his mother why

the back shed smelled so strong, what

ripened, wrapped in gingham,

underneath the floor.

The dead child had her requiems,

all the mourning we could give, and more,

though not enough.

There could never be enough.

Her parents still wake now, when she would be


and imagine still

her terror when

the young, strong hands

closed her throat finally, when



oxygen in her chest burned out,

and the pain under

spun-silk, straw-blonde hair when

her head stuck dirty planks,

the futile gestures groping at death.

And I woke this morning from

my dream,

no worse:

this brother clawing free of his moist grave,

eyes seeking mine.

Flesh slick with rot, he came at me and

sought my eyes with his–

still whole in greasy rims.

He said to me, impossibly:

"Give me your tongue and let me speak."

Hands reached toward my face.


Poetry Writing Dancing Badger