Child Death
Suicide > Poetry

By Mary Harrison

Summer Heat

By Mary Harrison

Sun circles the clock,
hands afire,
setting old underbrush ablaze.

Two boys at Mr. Yen's
sample the cashew chicken.
The brunette hugs his mother.
The blond, next to his father,
sits on his hands, drinking coke
through a straw.
The two make faces,
kick their heels against the seats,
point at each other, laugh.

I sit in a booth next to a window,
watching, remembering--
shorts, striped polo shirts, tennis shoes.
My own restless sons
unable to sit still in the dark theatre,
or at Bruno's for pepperoni pizza.
They rush through the play-yard
in Weathersfield--cub scouts,
box-car derbies, stamp collections,
voices changing, saying goodbye.

Suddenly it's two years ago.
We're "doing" Chinese with Scott, our youngest,
down from KC, and Chris, his brother.
Across from their father and me,
my grown sons eat Huang Zu Beef, and
drink tea at this same table.
Scott doesn't smile or joke, as usual.
I imagine he'd rather have Chicken Vindaloo
at his favorite Indian restaurant.
Even as he lifts his fork, I watch him disappear.

I dread this time of year, when the sun sucks blood
from the roses before they fully flower.
Lilac bushes are now dead wood.
White lilies bend in prayer like Benedict monks
seeking restoration.

I read in "Life" August is the worst
month for violence--disputes, murders,
Intense heat seems to change
the chemistry of the brain.

Two years ago, in a heat wave,
Scott's new gun lay in its box
in his bureau drawer restless
impatient he fired it.
The world stopped then.

Last night I dreamed I was resting
against a tall oak at the wood's edge.
Two men appeared underneath
a wild apple. I ran
to a house in the desert.
An old woman opened the door.
The house was empty.
From a bedroom window, downstairs,
through a telescope,
she and I watched the men. I feared
I would hurt if they found me,
I had no place to hide.

When a son dies, the world ends.
When a son kills himself,
everything burns burns
in the silence--
flesh, bones, heart,
old rosaries,

The family I've been watching is leaving.
The parents walk out together.
The older son jumps over cracks in the floor.
Mother holds the younger son's hand.
He breaks away, runs ahead.


By Mary Harrison

If you see an old woman
trudging alone
through the mall, don't hide
in Dillards
behind the shelves of razors,
moccasins, aftershave.
She's been searching for you
grave-filled days
ghosted with blue-jeans,
soft cotton sweats--faded
charcoal and blue hanging
on racks,
aroma of strong coffee like her
dead son loved
from the food court
through crowds of shoppers,
the coffee's bitter taste,
her son's eyes,
his smile in other faces.
Grief takes her home
where she pours liquid
Tide into the washing machine,
brews strong coffee,
waters her son's philodendron,
puts on her thermal nightgown
against the cold
knocking at the door.

About the Author

Mary Harrison has a Master of Science degree from University of Connecticut. Her poetry and prose have been published in several journals including "Kansas Quarterly," "Midwest Poetry Review," "Mediphors" and "Poetry Motel." Her book, "Unforeseen," was published by KotaPress, March, 2001. She is a retired psychiatric clinical nurse specialist and has four sons.

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