We are posting this poem by Mary Elder Jacobsen of Calais in honor of the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15. Mary wrote this poem last year in response to the death of an eight-year-old boy, Martin Richard, at the marathon’s Finish Line and in response to seeing the photo of him, taken days earlier, vibrant and alive, which his father shared with the media following the tragedy.
YOUR FATHER SHOWS THE PHOTOGRAPH TO EVERYONE
Your father shows the photograph to everyone.
Why wouldn’t he—You are beaming—be proud?
You have the face of every lively 8-year-old.
Your name is like that little bird, Martin,
who isn’t what he seems, Purple Martin,
who flies in red—slight, quick—tucks his wings, is gone
the moment we look away—Away, gone,
leaving us asking, What did I see just then?
Just who was that little one anyway?
In the photo your father shows to everyone
you wear a classic cap—it suits you perfectly,
fits just right, and the jersey you have on—
Could it be, maybe, just one size too large
in hopes that you might wear it again next year?
Emblazoned on it, an enormous B—like a badge
on your chest, for Boston, for Bruin—“great bear,”
for bird, small bird, Martin, beaming boy,
B for boy, all boy. And your eyes, bright
and big, curious, open wide, taking in the sights,
the brilliant colors, the crowd of fans surrounding you
with eyes so proud they well up with tears.
Your father shows the photograph to everyone:
Big jersey, big eyes, broad smile, big ears,
and those new teeth a few sizes too large, just a few years
away from fitting you perfectly. The crowd swells
around you, their curious eyes take in the sight
of you, well up with tears, see how the image stills
the very 8-year-old life of you, see how bright,
how silent you stay. We see the portrait your father shares,
our eyes well up with tears at what we all now know,
that nothing bigger—no clothes, no voice, no face, no crowd—
will we ever get to see you grow into. It just won’t be allowed.
Mary Elder Jacobsen
Posted with permission of the author