After Hours

You were twelve years old, sneaking out from your father
and I stupidly followed to watch you pepper trees
with the pellet gun. Your school tie wrapped around your head,
quoting Rambo with smears of paint upon your cheeks.

I only shot once, piercing the surface of the stream,
but you kept talking about game and meat
and you cracked the air, brought some red-breasted bird
down to the ground, where it fluttered and quickly died.

Something stirred that day, and the world
seemed blanched, cold, and I couldn’t hear
the trickling creek, nor could I find the words
and say we shouldn’t have killed the little thing.

I inwardly apologise whenever I pass that same spot.
Nothing has changed, but I can’t transcribe the white noise
of whispering winds bending the willow branches for you,
nor how the shimmering sun spreads through the sycamore.


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