Learning Not to Cry

Learning Not To Cry

Serb soldiers terrorize a family by dropping their three-year-old
down a well. Hours later, she’s rescued from a ledge. But after months,
the child won’t stop her day-long wails
.

                                    From a review of a book on tears,
                                    SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, October 1999


Smart tears, fleeing down her cheeks’
soft slope, the nursery’s vintage terror hides
inside the skull you leave, its darkness riddled
with secret holes where drops fall
like palpitations, plinking far below, openings
the leering faces can slither through.
The ledge was smaller than her body
so even a puff of air trembles with
disaster. No wonder, tiny refugees,
such a constant stream of you rolls down.

 

In time, in the forest, power shifts and the witch
dies in an oven so hot metal sags. Gretel
saw her hair go up, black locks
above the straight orange screams.
And yet, they say, the crone survives.

 

 

At last the child sleeps, years going by
before she wakes to a kiss, or
to a foul breath — They say the way
to cease to cry is to feel something
else. So, savage tears, you shrink
back into her skull to become
the yellowed lens she sees through,
biding her time in the blue flicker
of nightly news, clicking
the channels — click click
the chamber mapped and loaded.

 

Jacquelyn Malone
Poetry
Volume CLXXX, Number 6
September 2002

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