Requiem for a Four-Year-Old
Mark Warner was four years old
when he died in a Paterson slum.These days
even the people in his old neighborhood
can't remember his name.
"All I know is a little boy died here
. Nobody don't talk about it."
The words are spoken casually by a tall, slender woman
with orange-red nail polish. She gives her name
only as "Tee." No last name. On this block
of Broadway in Paterson, where used crack vials
are scattered at the curb and winos
hang out all day outside a liquor store,
people don't give their full names,
Tee is nineteen. She lives in apartment 6,
the same apartment where Mark Warner lived and died.
Standing on the rickety front stoop under a broken window,
Tee says: "Everybody here now wasn't here then."
"Sometimes I just give him a couple of slaps,"
Michael Thomas, Mark's stepfather says.
"But this time I hit him a while."
In the color pictures of Mark Warner,
Mark's lower lip is split
and large purple bruises distort most of his face
Four round scars, old cigarette burns, mark his buttocks.
The coroner believes the welts on his back
are from a whipping with a belt or a wire loop.
Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor,
Marilyn Zdobinski, shakes her head in disgust.
"These are the crimes
that people do not think happen," Zdobinski says.
"But people beat kids every day.
Last week, Mark's twenty-one-year-old mother,
Alvira Warner Thomas, stood silently
in an empty Passaic County Courtroom;
She was sentenced to four years probation
and ordered to seek counseling. Michael Thomas was sentenced to ten years
without parole. "He is very depressed,"
his lawyer says.
Based on an article in The Herald News, Paterson, NJ February 13, 1988, this poem by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, appears in her collection, Where I Come From
Maria's Official Site is at MariaGillan.com and her books are available at Amazon.com. Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets