Then He Begged Me to Go Back with Him and Rescue the Others

The essence of a crime never makes the news,
isn’t written about in the autopsy report,
or entered into evidence.
The true crime spreads like ripples
after a rock skips across still water,
the lake by the house where he killed her.
Think about the mothers,
the one who carried the murdered
and the one who carried the murderer.
Imagine cradling the weight of their losses.
Then there is the question of forgiveness,
a dozen paper rafts left on the surface
in hopes one may make it to the other side.
The rock thrown is forgotten
long before the water settles,
like prisoners descending into the murky depths
of the system. Every inmate is someone’s child,
sibling, cousin, parent, so is every victim.
A rock is a rock is an overused metaphor
for someone who is strong. I am not
a rock. I am the u in True Crime.
If you are brazen enough to ask how my brother
could have committed such a heinous act,
I wouldn’t discuss mental illness,
even though I really, really want to
Instead, I will tell you that when he was eight
and I was fifteen, I spent twenty-two dollars
of my babysitting money
to win him a goldfish at the carnival
and then on our way home,
with tears in his eyes, he knelt beside a small pond,
opened up the plastic bag and set the prisoner free.

(3rd Place Stephen A Dibiase Award)


Three Days Before Sentencing

I swam twenty-three laps today.
We went to the library and my daughter
checked out a pile of graphic novels.
She prefers pictures over words.
I will make her a lettuce and mayonnaise
sandwich for lunch. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. I miss
you. You will be sentenced in three days
for a crime no one believes you committed
in your right mind. I may or may not
get around to laundry. The baby has been
fussy lately. Mark is still working on the plumbing
in the house we used to live in, he’s getting it ready
for someone else to move in. I thought
moving would make our lives easier. Between us,
we sleep eight hours a night. Work. Work. Work.
Then tomorrow, the next day, the day after.
You know the length of your incarceration;
sentencing is part of the procedure we all wish
could be skipped.  All of this and nothing.
Last time I visited, you asked me if
I thought her family hated you.
You killed their daughter, their sister, I replied.
I haven’t gone back to see you since.
I hate the way the guards ask,
Are you carrying any weapons?
before they buzz you in. The days go on
the way they did before, except there is this film
over everything like when you heat a mug of milk
in the microwave. Sometimes someone asks how I am,
and all I tell them is that I started swimming again.



Rebecca Schumejdais the author of several full-length collections including Falling Forward (sunnyoutside press), Cadillac Men (NYQ Books), Waiting at the Dead End Diner (Bottom Dog Press) and most recently Our One-Way Street (NYQ Books). Her latest book Something Like Forgivenesswhich features collages by Hosho McCreesh, is available from Stubborn Mule Press. She is the co-editor at Trailer Park Quarterly. She received her MA in Poetics from San Francisco State University and her BA from SUNY New Paltz. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her family.