the boy with my heart in his hand

by bam

no use keepin’ this to myself. that’d be stingy, wouldn’t it be?

nope, this is for sharing. hanging up on the wall. maybe i should rent out a billboard. slap up some glue. stick it there, on the side of the road.

maybe if every good soul in the world, every one that was hungry or hurting or split right in half, maybe if this swell paper heart, all zigzag and scribble and pink-upon-pink, got pulled out of all the old packs in the world, maybe then we’d not be so aching inside.

only hours ago, this appeared.

at the end of a day, at the end of a spell, when most all around, it was dreary, and grey-upon-grey.

mighty sad too.

i didn’t hear it. but gunshots rang out, not far from here. not far from where i spent the saturday typing away. police didn’t come, though, till just yesterday. knocked down the door. brought in the s.w.a.t. team.

that’s not supposed to happen. not here where the streets are cobbled in brick, and the trees, gnarled, maybe arthritic. i do think they groan, at least on blustery days, limbs centuries old, the poor hobbled trees.

they’ve seen too much now, those trees.

my little one doesn’t know. he’s not heard a word.

blessedly, somehow, he’s been nestled right by my side. sick with a bug that’s kept him at home. away from the news trucks. away from the street where the bright yellow tape squares off the sorrow.

as if it could be contained.

as if, when the big yellow bus rumbles by, packed thick with schoolkids, they wouldn’t turn to look out the windows, press noses to glass. ask questions. ask lots.

as if.

if he knew, he’d be calling me now, calling my name. “mommy,” he’d holler, from up where the sleep hasn’t yet come, “can i ask you a question?”

then he’d want to know more. want to know things i’d not want to tell him. how the man took the gun, a civil war musket, shot the boy, shot the mother. then a whole day, and 40 pages of diatribe later, he went and shot his sorry old self.

i’d not want to tell that tale to my little one. or my older one, either. but he already knows.

it’s hard to shake off, this sort of neighborhood news.

it’s one thing when a house is knocked down, or an odd-seeming one goes up in its place. it’s one thing when a coyote is spotted, or even a cougar.

but when the headline news comes from a house you pass every day. one where you walk with your mama, holding her hand, skipping along, well then, that’s a story that’s hard to take in big gulps.

so you do what you can.

you rock your sweet child. you rub his hot head. you squeeze honey on ice. you sing him a lullabye.

all the while, of course, you are thinking of a child not too far away. a child who’s gone now. through no fault of his own.

and then, there’s a knock at the door. a sweet little girl has brought home a pile of work for your child who’s sick.
so you pull out the papers. and there is the heart. the heart and the hand. the red and the scribbles in blue.

“that’s your heart, mommy.

“i’m holding it.”

that’s what he said.

and that’s what he does, all right.

the boy with my heart in his hand.

i tucked it there long, long ago.

it’s been safe ever since.

we all could use a little heart holding right in here. i know i could. this is for all of us, whoever we are, who are feeling the doldrums of winter and worry.

happy half century to a brother i love. mem, you’re mr. sunshine, all right. happy square root day. 3.3.09.xox

had to jump the clock a little tonight, as tomorrow, writing wednesday, will find me far from this keyboard, typing away down in the city. the little one’s headed back to school. God willing, he’ll be kept from the shadows that fall from the very sad house, too close to the school.

what’s brightened your heart in these blustery days?