September 24, 2009

Judith Quaempts

Thoughts Upon Viewing His Body

How handsome you look, Nephew, in your ribbon shirt, your white buckskin leggings and moccasins, the bone choker made with your own hands. How handsome you look dressed for your journey. How proud.

I came to say goodbye. Funny though, I look at you and I don't see a man of twenty-four, instead I see a boy of five, running from the Mission store.

"Look Auntie," you yelled to me that day, hoisting a little sack high. "I got candy!"

A year later you were found in an empty theater at three in the morning.
"Lost," you answered, when asked where your parents were.

They stayed lost for years.

The State moved in and gave you away. The couple who took you did their best, but their best wasn̢۪t enough. The older you got, the madder you got until in a rage, you stole a car and gun.

Thank God you were caught and sent to jail because when you came out you wanted to turn your life around.

And you did. You found your parents, discovered sisters and brothers you didn't know you had. You were happy for awhile, happy until that nightmare afternoon your little sister climbed the railroad bridge so she could see the river.

You ran. Oh, God, you ran.

The train was faster.

A door closed then. You blamed yourself. You'd had enough. You wanted out.

It's a good day to die, you wrote, before you pulled the trigger.

This bag of penny candy is melting in my hand. I meant to tuck it in beside you before we put you in the ground, but what's the use? Penny candy can't turn back the clock, or take away the grief we feel because we couldn't save you.

Little boy running from the Mission store, I miss you.


Judith Kelly Quaempts lives and writes in eastern Oregon. Her work has been published in T-Zero, Drunk and Lonely Men, and Camroc Press Review.

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