Her name was Samantha Pendo. Somehow—I don’t know how—it sliced through the unmemory work of “women and children” that buries harm. Somehow—I don’t know how—it cut through the nation-work that assigns mourning to those who belong. Somehow—I don’t know how—it gathered us. Somehow—I don’t know how—it entered our shared vernaculars.
No, that’s not quite right.
Feeling accumulates and accumulates and accumulates and accumulates and is pressed down and pressed down and pressed down and pressed down. And if you dared to cry, the salt from the accumulated tears would turn your face into a crystal facade.
You see, there had been so many names, so many “women and children” and “children and children” and so many unnamed: “children of this village” and “children from this school” and “children at the kiosk” and “children walking home” and “children walking to visit friends.” So many named and unnamed. They blur. You try to hold their specificity: girl, boy, baby, toddler, girlchild, boychild, only child—ONLY child, only CHILD. You, see.
And their names are mine and ours and yours and theirs and no one and no one and no one and no one’s.
(the earth is kind and receives the children)
And we asked, “don’t the police also have children?” And that was not the question. But it had to be. We looked for words.
Our mourning restored childhood to those stolen by bullets and indifference.
Sleep, child, sleep.
(what lullabies will we sing for murdered children)