Herbert Woodward Martin, After the Shooting

Herbert Woodward Martin

I am not so sure where the conversation began,
but this is what a reporter for a national news
organization wrote:
The grandfather began the evening prayers with:
We should remember the pain the killer’s family
must now live with. We all have absorbed some
of their pain into our presence. It was not a
portion of the day’s harvest we expected, but it
is a part nevertheless. We must hold steady to
forgiveness; it is what our Heavenly Father
commanded; it is what He would have us do.
We must be innocent in our accepting the pain
others perpetuate upon us We must be cognizant
of our own guilt, just as the Second Thief was in
realizing his own failure. Is words had been
steadily written in his heart, and he uttered them
from his mouth like the perpetual turning of the
wheels on the carts that took them from village to
village. We must not allow this particular pain to
deprive us of our dignity; we are an honorable
people. The old man spoke to the rapt attention
of the remaining children while his oldest daughter
made careful preparations with her tears. Her duty
had brought her to this burial point of saying
farewell to her first and third daughters. She would
wrapt them each in white winding cloths as the
community required. She would cut a memento of
hair from each offspring. There would be no photos
left to testify that they were ever alive. She would
keep the hair in a locket around her neck. This
would be her private remembrance. She would kiss
each sterile face goodbye. Her husband would dig
two small graves as required even though the earth
resisted each stroke his shovel made. So, the reporter
ended his story writing, grandfather, daughter, mother,
father, husband, and wife moved according to the
wheels of duty. After the preparations were all
accomplished, the minutes, hours, days, months were
allowed to turn themselves into snow. Nothing of this
day will ever be recorded. Slowly an eradicating
whiteness will fall and infect even the memory.

Bio: Herbert Woodward Martin has recently completed his tenth manuscript and two chapbooks. He has poems forthcoming in Stand, Old Northwest Review, and Common Threads.

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