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The Murder

ISSUE:  Spring 1981
When I heard the screaming, I ran back through the woods—
about two hundred yards, I guess—to the clearing.
I was tired—please understand—and somewhat confused,
having no idea what so suddenly could have gone wrong
with my father, whom I’d left five minutes before
standing, smoking his cigar, by the moonlit pond.
You see, I recognized the screams as his. . . .

I ran in a daze down the tree-shadowed path
and reaching the open space, stumbled and fell.
The moon was close to full. I’ll never forget
how scrambling back to my feet I felt I was caught
in a trap of stillness and light. There were no more cries
and nothing in sight, as it seemed, except moonlit grass
and the glint of moon on the pond
and back in the elm-tree’s shade something darker than

I ran over. It was my father. His head had been smashed
and the poured-out blood and brains were soaking the soil.
God! I was numb at first
but then looking down at the corpse felt a rush of hate
so intense, it was almost as if I had killed him myself.
I felt the pain, too—but my hatred burned like a fever,
as though the whole vileness were due to him alone.

How long I stood there stunned I can’t rightly tell—
maybe two minutes, maybe ten—and then I remembered
something else I’d seen from the corner of my eye
but paid no heed to at first in my trouble: a blur
almost too vague to be noticed. . . . The memory came
It was something gray as a rat, but larger and shapeless,
huddled off on the grass at the edge of the border of trees.

So I turned to it. Nothing! Gone. . . . Had I imagined it?
I tell you I hadn’t. It was something outside of myself
that came here from nowhere I know when my father was
There is no more that anyone can say without going insane!
I was walking back home, as I’ve told you, when it all
walking back home looking forward to my bed,
when a person or thing from far off came down to that
and crushed my old father’s skull by the light of the moon—
something I never never could have done
although I’ll grant I hated the man like death.


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