/ Blog / Her Voice in My Ear, Jackson State, May 4, 1970 by Helen Silverstein

Her Voice in My Ear, Jackson State, May 4, 1970 by Helen Silverstein

April 8, 2012

Her voice coming through her chest has a completely different sound. I like it. Her words mush together, vibrating in my ear, mom talking to dad about Jackson State and how good it is they took us to see where the shootings occurred. Bullet holes in the walls of the dorms, is what I remember, and blockades; police everywhere. Students killed for no reason. No reason, I hear, looking out the window of the station wagon with my two brothers—my Dad driving, my mother talking, talking. More bad things are happening; I feel sick with fear.

Sick means on the drive home I ride in the middle, up front between my parents. The coveted position. My brothers sleep behind me, one stretched out on the second seat, one in the way back of the station wagon. My ear pressed to Mom’s chest, I pretend to sleep so she might keep her arm around me longer. She pat, pats my shoulder kind of hard, but I think this is like a hug, like she wants me leaning in against her, wants me hearing the timbre of her voice through the bones and skin of her. Held this way, fear slides away. I don’t care what my parents are saying. I like where I am.

I don’t remember when she pushes me away. When I become too bothersome, a heavy thing putting her arm to sleep.

I don’t remember another time when she holds me.

Helen Silverstein is the co-editor of Southern Women’s Review. She writes fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Her works have appeared in publications as diverse as OBIT magazine and Big Pulp. For more information, please visit her website at www.helensilverstein.net.


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  • June 14, 2012

    The manner in which this piece tailors down to its final line is amazing, moving.

    Keith Hoerner
  • April 1, 2013

    Profound way of telling how a historical event effected a young child and how an event like this causes such distress, unease and fear in a child who doesn't even really grasp what the whole thing is about…..but knows it is not good. I remember also sitting in the "coveted seat" between my mother and stepfather when I was about 8 yrs old and a child my age had drowned in a lake where we were visiting for the day. I remember the lost and fearful feeling that I had even though I didn't truly understand death or how a parent would feel when their child had died that day. You have a wonderful way of describing emotions in only a few words. Thanks so much for this story!

    Cyndi Henry