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“Dream Song 129” by John Berryman (1914 – 1972)
Thin as a sheet his mother came to him
during the screaming evenings after he did it,
touched F.J.’s dead hand.
The parlour was dark, he was the first pall-bearer in,
he gave himself a dare & then did it,
the thing was quite unplanned,
riots for Henry the unstructured dead,
his older playmate fouled, reaching for him
and never will he be free
from the older boy who died by the cottonwood
& now is to be planted, wise & slim,
as part of Henry’s history.
Christ waits. That boy was good beyond his years,
he served at Mass like Henry, he never did
one extreme thing wrong
but tender his cold hand, latent with Henry’s fears
to Henry’s shocking touch, whereat he fled
and woke screaming, young & strong.