Thursday, December 5, 2013

Today is the birthday of Amy Lake, daughter of my friends Linda and Ralph, murdered by her husband, along with her two children in June 2011. And here is a poem that borrows from the officials' chilling psychological autopsy of the case. Sometimes I include the piece among my western Pennsylvania poems and pretend that it happened there. But it didn't, though it could have, because it could have happened anywhere. And it does.

According to Our Sources

Dawn Potter

The man owned “maybe twenty, twenty-one
firearms” and had bought, “I don’t know,
seven or eight BB guns” for his ten-year-old.

That boy “was the apple of his eye, no question.”
The girl, “well, not so much.” Still, he was “a good feller,”
“a go-getter,” “he’d always been a doer not a thinker,”

he just needed “to relax now and again, nothing serious.”
“Some people can’t take a joke, you know what I mean?”
or else “things might of ended up different.”

It was “weird but also a little bit crazy funny, you know,”
when he sat in the La-Z-Boy and shot the ornaments
off the family Christmas tree, and, “oh, sure,

sometimes he did dumb stuff,” not like “pills or booze,”
more like “laughing too much when his daughter cried.”
It was “common knowledge” he kept a loaded pistol

holstered on his bedpost, and “he could be mouthy”
at “kind of the wrong moment”—for instance, that party
when he told his friends he’d be “dragging the wife home”

to give her a “hate fuck.” “A couple two, three times”
he threatened to use her dad as “knife practice.”
 And “what some heard” is, after he “kep a gun on em”

for an entire summer night, and she “broke down”
and called in the cops, “well, soon’s he seen the blue lights,”
he swiveled round to his son and told him “real calm,”

“Now your mother’s done it.” Which is to say
“most folks agreed the man had his angers,”
but “who’d a thought he’d turn out so dangerous?”

[first published in 5AM, no. 37 (2013)]


Ruth said...

Beautiful poem that sends chills into my presently overheated classroom. This murder happened the same June that my colleague was murdered by her partner. All so senseless and dreadful.

Maureen said...

Incredible poem that points up the absolute horror of the domestic life.

Dawn Potter said...

This poem is ugly: sonically, structurally, subject-wise. It's made me think a lot about "beauty is truth, truth beauty." I haven't come to any conclusion, except I couldn't find anyway to make the truth beautiful in this poem.