A Boy in a Bed in the Dark
Born with a cleft palate,
My two-year-old brother,
Recovering from yet another surgery,
Toddled into our bedroom
Toppled a tower of blocks
That I had patiently built
And in a five-year-old’s fury
I grabbed a fallen block
And winged it at him
Ripping open his carefully reconstructed lip.
The next hours were gruesomely compressed
Ending with a boy in a bed in the dark
Mute with fear
Staring out into the hallway with horror
As the pediatrician went in and out of the bathroom
With one vast blood-soaked towel after another
Shaking his head worriedly.
My brother’s howls
And my parents’ cooed comfort
Became the soundtrack to this milky movie
In my darkest theatre,
The one that I sidle past each night
With a shudder
And a throb in my fist
My mom read this poem to me a couple of years ago. I could hear that it was a sad poem but I didn’t understand why she couldn’t stop crying. I think she was mostly upset to think of that little boys pain but maybe a little bit for her own.
We all have regrets, if we have a conscience. So far for me, my regrets occur at the “oh I should have studied more for that test” or “I shouldn’t have just made fun of my brother” level. I think as the incident or crime heightens in seriousness and violence, the weaker the conscience of the person. So the older brother in the poem is scared to death because he understands what his quick loss of control/patience could cause.
Connecting to and pleasing adults is how we first develop our conscience and in this poem, the 5 year old brother is left to wonder whether he will survive this terrible night-he is alone and guilt ridden. It is a matter of circumstances-his parents and the doctor are by necessity dealing with his little brother but knowing he is the cause of it all, he cannot gain any comfort or assurances that he will be ok.
In In Cold Blood, the criminals Dick and Perry clearly have no remorse over their crimes. Truman Capote is able to recreate the crime in such chilling detail because during the interviews while they were in prison, they matter of factly relayed them. While they described what they did, it doesn’t appear that their conscience guided them or caused them to think twice about what they were doing. It makes me wonder if something tragic or abusive occurred in their childhoods or if this is a case of hardwiring. Unlike in the poem, A Boy In a Bed, I don’t feel one bit of sorrow for them just as they show no guilt for murdering the Clutter family. Where In Cold Bold evokes terror and dismay, this poem brings out feelings of empathy and sadness.