no sign before

    THERE was nothing in her behaviour in school that pointed to the 10-year-old girl wanting to kill herself. In the weeks before the school holidays, she was her usual cheerful self. The top pupil and school prefect ran errands for teachers and helped her classmates in their school work. 'Does this look like a girl who harboured thoughts of suicide?' asked her principal.

    ("No sign before girl's suicide" ST 23 Aug 2001)

    The truth, always, a little less than art:
    Not the troubled cell of some precocious
    martyr, secrets carved on a desk's pained skin;
    sheets bleeding floor-ward, dissembled linen;
    as morning sliced through in twenty places,
    scattering motes in the room's stripped heart.
    Instead: some matching confection of pastel,
    Hello Kitty arranged on shelves painted eggshell-
    white, a vase of pink gerberias by the mirror.
    The bed, most likely, was well-made, seat
    tucked neatly under table, books piled on
    books in unperturbable mounds. Our error
    is confounding loss. As if the language of defeat
    were an alien tongue. Or needs translation.

02 September 2001   09:56 hours
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