When My Daughter Didn't Come Home

by Jacquelyn Sutton

Dedicated to: Sharonda Larisse Hogans James
 August 13, 1973 – July 8, 2014”

I spent a week, almost, in the front yard
waiting for you, watching as the Sun
peeked through the leaves in the east every day,
beat down on us and slowly
sank behind the trees in the west with
Jupiter following closely riding on its back.
Is that Venus leading the Sun into another day?
You should have been home hours ago.

On Tuesday morning, they told me you were gone
but could not tell me where.
They told me I could not see you, just yet,
you needed to be autopsied -
why? Everyone knew your husband executed you.

On Friday afternoon, they let me see you…
it didn’t look like you…
“she” had your “I’m pissed” look, but
you would never wear your hair
like that. The makeup made you look
dark and wooden like an old, dried tree branch.
You will only be 42 next month, you should not look
like that. They put white gloves on your hands -
I guess to cover the bullet wounds – you
wore gloves in the winter when we lived in New York to squeeze
snow into big, soft balls to throw at your children
their laughter skipping through the trees like tinkling bells.

I smiled then when I remembered a time before then
having to overnight Power, your stuffed lion, from Miami
to you in New York when you went for job
training because you could not, would not, sleep without him
and you would be gone for two whole weeks that time.
I asked if I could put him in that pretty, velvet-lined box
with you – so you could rest peacefully and sleep easy.

I saw you again later that Friday and you looked a little more
like yourself, without the pissed expression.
You had a faint smile on your bruised lips.
I laughed because there tucked beneath your left arm, right where
they said you were shot, taking the pain away and
keeping the nightmares at bay, your white gloved hand
curled around his neck, was your faithful Power.
I had him cremated with you so you would never be alone.
Besides, I can’t afford to overnight him to Heaven!

We said “Goodbye”, “we will miss you”, “we love you”
sent you off to live with God on Saturday. I didn’t
know you knew so many people – many of whom none
of us knew – people whose lives you touched
in your own special way.

Everyone left us alone on Sunday, your five children
and me. Went back to their lives, their dreams
with promises to keep in touch, call if you need us
knowing I wouldn’t.
Now I raise your children as I raised you.
They have become my life as you, your sister, and your brother
were and always will be.

Today, you and Power are here in spirit; you share the urn, watch TV with us;
listen to your children laugh and play. You should be
here in person to watch them grow, learn, and live.

I no longer stand in the front yard but
I still wait for you, watch for you.
You should have been home long ago.

University & College Poetry Prizes Page