Falter Suite by Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes

      I. Report

On August 1, 2014, Kimberly Tutko
called the police. Her son was dead;
this was her official report.
Jarrod Tutko Jr. had been locked
in an empty attic room for months.
No working lights. No open windows.
His father, Jarrod Tutko, his sole caregiver
(along with two other children), wouldn’t
check on his son for days. His mother claimed
to have no idea about the abuse, herself
caring for three other children (one,
a girl in a vegetative state.)

The coroner later released
these facts: Jarrod Tutko Jr.
had multiple abscessed teeth
and weighed 16.9 lbs at death.
He would have been 10 that October.

      II. Stretched Thin

Sometimes love, stretched thin, sunders.
The humid, thick heat of August, static
in the room: the window shut, the air uncirculated.
His fat and muscle sapped away, only thin folds
of skin left to drape over his bones that could not wither.
I want to teach him words like “hell,”
“evil” so that he knows we have words to explain
his abscessed teeth shooting pain through his jaw,
how emaciation shriveled his body
and could make skeletal even the mind. But perhaps,

he would disagree—would hold up one hand to say: stop.
As if to tell me he didn’t need language because it falters. It always
falters. I’d hold my paltry words in my hands and watch them slip
away between my fingers. My hands still cupped to hold them.

      III. Mother

The first time I wrote this poem, I broke my own rule.
I wrote it as if I were her. Because I want to forgive her.
I want to believe she honestly didn’t know her son
wasted away from the world on the topmost floor.

My own mother is less forgiving. She said, “I just
can’t forgive her. And: I’m the fairest person.” Perhaps
the mother’s shoulders had broken long before under a weight
we’ll never know. I can speculate all day. Does that help?

Does speculation lead to empathy or does it assume?
She claims she was doing what was best. She claims
she asked about him every day. This is what I know:
she picked up the phone. She witnessed her son’s

body, and the first thing she did was call. And then,
for more than a month, she lived in the house
where her son had died, the other five children taken,
her husband locked away, where soon she would follow.

I cannot imagine that silence.

      IV. Lock

—this word we know was in the father’s consciousness;
he installed the attic room deadbolt in
reverse, unlocked only from outside.
Inside, his son, no yellow wallpaper
for wondering about. Lock: as in
“my son’s mind is locked to me.” Closed
to no’s and stop’s, the son smearing
his feces across the floor and walls
and knobless door. So intentional,
the brass and greased and solid lock.
Only some great force could break it.
Did he see his son as locked and keyless?
Perhaps the son was, instead,
a tangle to be carefully unwound. I’m
sorry. With metaphor, I forgot
what’s important: he was human.
Now his body rusted shut in death;
his father’s hands locked.

      V. 2119 Green Street

I know I’ve made a mistake
even as I look up the address
of Jarrod’s house on the Street View
portion of Google Maps. I can

see a strong birch in front,
bark peeling and leaves sparkling
green in the summer sun. I can see
the window of his attic room

shut, as we already knew.
I can see the alley where
his father disposed of the
bleach containers and moth ball

boxes in the trash bins. I zoom
into the attic window, like a child
peeking into a haunted house, as if I
expect to find some new information.

I cover my mouth
when I see the date: July 2014.
He is in the height of his suffering
behind the grainy window.

The image stitched into composite
just weeks before Jarrod died.
But what have I gained by
zooming in? By covering

my mouth? What’s been helped?
What have you gained
by reading this poem, by
exposing yourself to an

image of what would otherwise
be a sunny, summer day?

For Jarrod Tutko Jr., who was pronounced dead on August 1, 2014.

Elizabeth Deanna Morris LakesElizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes was born in Harrisburg, PA and has a BA in Creative Writing from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University. She has appeared in Mom Egg Review, {Ex}tinguished & {Ex}tinct: An Anthology of Things That No Longer {Ex}ist, Whiskey Island, OVS, and Hot Metal Bridge. She has chapbook, Patterning, from Corgi Snorkel Press.






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2 thoughts on “Falter Suite by Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes

  1. Judy Dayhoff

    It is poems like this that make me swell with pride. You are so gifted and I’m so happy that we are related.

  2. Sally Moore

    I agree with Judy, you are a gifted writer and we are proud to call you family. I am sorry your grandparents are not around to see what you have been able to accomplish with your writing. Thank you for sharing this with us.


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