Poem | Murder-Suicide

B&W photograph of blonde woman with crossed arms and sunglasses, staring directly at camera.
Photo Credit: George Eastman House

There was a man. The paper says ‘troubled.’

His sister says ‘sweet.’ The neighbors say ‘quiet.’

There was a knife. The paper says ‘sharp.’

His mother says ‘hidden.’ The store adds ‘purchased.’

There was a woman. She was his wife,

an object he troubled, an extra appendage.

There were some children. The paper says ‘boys.’

The school says ‘darling.’ An aunt writes ‘mourned.’

Their mother adored them. She kept them close:

for there was a man—a troubling man.

He was her husband; he was their father.

His voice ran hard; his fist swung wide.

But the paper can’t say that: there’s no one talking.

‘Cos there’s no one living. So it’s ‘troubled.’

So it’s ‘quiet.’ They’re ‘deceased.’ No one says murder.

But we have questions: There was a knife.

Did it trouble her flesh? Why was she so quiet?

This was a woman: Did she exist? Or is she a prop

to sadden his story? Did she have a mother?

Where is her history? For she was a woman—

like we are women. For she was a person

like we are persons. The paper says ‘family.’

The village says ‘neighbors.’ The priest says ‘angels.’

But we know better: She was a woman,

in death a mystery, in light a wonder. But still:

a woman. Another woman (of many women)

whose ‘troubled’ man ended her life.




This poem was inspired by writer Linea Dunne’s insightful “Rest in peace, invisible woman,” which is about media coverage of the recent murder-suicide of Clodagh Hawe (née Coll) and her three sons by her husband. Here’s a fair example of the coverage of her murder (as well as many other murders like Clodagh Hawe’s): Heartbreaking first picture of tragic mum and wife Clodagh Hawe killed in murder-suicide in Cavan. Note that this story discusses at length the life of the murderer, but fails to mention much about the people he actually murdered. While the poem is not explicitly about Hawe or any particular woman of recent memory, it is dedicated to her family. Rest in power, Clodagh Hawe.