Self-portrait as an Innocent Bystander


I am not Jewel Howard
who ate pickles from a jar on her grandmother’s front porch,
who giggled pickle juice down the front of her dress.
I am not Jewel Howard
who scrunched up her face against the scratchy skin of the leg
she clung to when it was time to go home with mother.
I’m not three-year old Jewel Howard
who complained of a stomachache and back pain, Jewel,
who grew listless, then vomited.
I’m not the family friend
who saw Jewel “flopping around” on the floor
and begged Jewel’s mother to take her to the hospital.
I’m not the medical examiner
who called the lacerations to Jewel’s liver
the result of homicidal violence.
I’m not the social services worker
who, at the time of Jewel’s death, was investigating the family
for an “unrelated injury.”
I’m not Jewel’s six-month old little sister
now in protective custody.
I’m not the Miami Herald reader who commented:
More stories about dirty, dark, unwanted babies and children?
I rather hear about rich people and stars!
I’m not the pair of glasses
smashed beneath the wheel of the ambulance
as it drove off with Jewel’s unresponsive body.
I’m not the single lens whose crack
began with a sudden impact to the center, then splintered outward,
the smashed up lens, an explosion or a shooting star.
I am not Jewel Howard
her grandmother
her mother
the family friend
the medical examiner
the social worker
the little sister
the Herald reader
the glasses
or the lens.
I’m the person who scrawls the breeze
that tightens its noose around her last breath.
I scribble the guardian ad litem whose statistic
slinks off on a coffee break.
I write the quiver in the hound’s belly
as it sniffs the crime scene.
I try to nuzzle the unknowable, to thaw
the unthinkable loss
of Jewel, the glint of light in every corner, the uncut stone
stomped into the earth by a familiar shoe.
I’m a useless metaphor maker             a futile reacher beyond the be
I am not,
and Jewel is.

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