The woman who killed her child
sits in the nurse’s station.
The woman who shot her five year old son.
Who shot her husband.
Who shot herself twice in the head.
She lifts her arm for blood pressure,
opens her mouth for temp,
stares blankly while I take her pulse.
I help her shower, check for lice,
for bruise marks, scars.
She could be my mother’s neighbor.
They sit drinking coffee,
talk about the new crop of tulips
blooming in the garden.
Flowers of blood bloom in her kitchen
The child screams in the corner
The father beats the mother
The mother shoots the father
who doesn’t die,
She stands by the nurse’s station.
I say, “Can I help you?”
She says, “They took my son away after the accident. I’m worried about him.”
“When did this happen?”
“Eight years ago.
They say I killed him, but I didn’t.
He’s the only thing that keeps me going.”
I read the chart. He would have been thirteen now.
This woman causes no trouble,
never goes into restraints for fights
nor loses her smoking privilege
for Dangerous Smoking;
when they call her bitch
she walks away.
I watch the way she helps old Alice,
helps her dress in the morning,
makes her bed just right,
tucks her in at night,
sings her to sleep.
~ by Frances Tompkins