John Warner Smith

Samuel and Solomon, Age Six

Such a hard thing to understand,
the newspaper headline quoted
the boys’ uncle as saying. 
Perhaps the photographs pulled me
inside—a snapshot of the boys,
their arms raised high,
tiny specks of light beaming
in the center of their black marble eyes,
brightening their broad smiles
with cheeks bulging like buds
waiting to bloom.

And the photo of the processional:
young black men, two to a side,
flanking two small boxes.
With heads bowed, they grip
the shiny chrome handles
of the baby blue caskets
draped with white carnations.
Like Samuel and Solomon,
the men wear white gloves,
pink shirts and blue neckties,
no jackets, no pinned boutonnieres. 

A short drive from the maple-lined field
dotted with gray tombstones,
red, yellow and white roses,
the mother sits in county jail.
The news reports how, not why,
she killed them, then tried to kill herself.

Now, four years later,
as I’ve pulled this faded, torn newspaper
from a dresser drawer
half-filled with laminated memories,
these images, like bulbs once buried
and forgotten inside the cold,
lifeless ground of winter,
sprout in the warm blush of June.