THE NEWS FROM HAPPY VALLEY
When the deleted video resurfaces, the boys are standing around a body.
It’s grainy and full of booze, even through the sliced and spliced
and shattered pixels. I’ve been in those basements –
rickety wooden stairs and a cooler full of jungle juice,
boys in a drunken throng. They’re in the central Pennsylvania county
of my birth. When I was born cows roamed the hillside below the hospital window
and those boys were barely a twinkle in their mamas’ eyes. Now one of them
has died while the others stood above the body
and did not help. Instead when he is hurt they throw shoes, throw beer,
and one boy slaps him three times, hard. When he still won’t wake
they leave him on the couch and his spleen bleeds out
into his belly. The video won’t stay deleted. The harm
loops back. When my son pushes
his younger brother to the ground then says
sorry sorry sorry. When he takes his brother’s finger
and places it deliberately between his teeth. But also
when we leave daycare he insists some days on hugging
each friend in turn, how the boys turn sometimes
into a pile, yelling “huggy! huggy!” and laughing
and kissing each other on the cheek:
such tenderness. How to make it stay.
Listen to "Nobody" by Mitski, selected to accompany "THE NEWS FROM HAPPY VALLEY," below:
NANCY REDDY (she/her) is the author of Pocket Universe (LSU, 2022), Double Jinx (Milkweed Editions, 2015), a 2014 winner of the National Poetry Series, and Acadiana (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), and the co-editor, along with Emily Pérez, of The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood (UGA, 2021). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, Blackbird, Colorado Review, The Iowa Review, Smartish Pace, and elsewhere. The recipient of a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Sustainable Arts Foundation, she teaches writing at Stockton University in southern New Jersey.