"'Summer afternoon'—'Summer afternoon'...the two most beautiful words in the English language." —Henry James
It was a lovely summer afternoon in Delaware,
sunny yet cool and dry,
and while the bodies are bagged and carted away,
the lawn still slick with blood,
in the stunned silence someone—
maybe a neighbor, maybe the cop—
looks after the children during the longest day of their lives,
day that endures a lifetime,
unendurable day and sleepless night.
What made you do it, Esquivel,
you stupid, stupid man?
She told you to get out;
you got a knife instead
and stabbed her in the back
while your children screamed,
"He’s killing our mother."
Then you took her gun from the bedroom
and shot her in the head,
twice, in a black rage,
not even thinking
"This pays you back,
bitch, for everything"—
because it was nothing, Esquivel,
nothing but your wounded vanity,
and now you begin to see it, dimly,
through the blood mist—
the waste and the futility—
as you wander onto the front lawn,
the knife in one hand, gun in the other,
the buzzing in your head so loud
you do not hear your children weeping.
You see the cop, you feel
the neighbors watching.
You kneel down and gulp one bullet,
and your hands hit the earth
And what is done cannot be undone,
and it will be a long time, if ever,
before you are forgiven, Pablo Esquivel.
You, dead idiot, couldn’t care less, of course,
and your children bear the burden.
Your guess is as good as mine
how much your crime will cost them.
Our pity is for your wife and children,
but we can grieve for you as well, Pablo, mi hijo,
and if I were a praying man I'd pray
never to be anywhere near a gun
when the black rage takes me.
Daniel reads "Poisoned":
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Daniel confesses: "'Poisoned' was occasioned by an article I read in the New York Times about a murder-suicide in New Jersey; I changed the location to Delaware and changed the last name."