Taking A View

About pain, the black-shawled women know enough
to last a lifetime:  that anything may happen
at any moment, that good men not home by nightfall
may never be seen again, that a child’s cry,
a screech of brakes, may bring the curtain down
forever.  The fingers telling beads are wise with hurt. 

They sit together in a corner of the square and watch
as lines of men take on, barehanded, the task
of shifting tons of stone and rubble.  Even the worst 
that can be thought must somehow be got through.
A three-legged dog barks crazily at pigeons
it can’t chase, bar girls not dressed for rescue work

look the other way, children, who know the words
to all their songs, are playing skipping games
across the street and someone nearby is barbecuing
meat.  Mouths water.  Garlic, hot charcoal.  Guilt.
The women understand the pattern these things make,
they expect no sudden miracle.  They are old, not fools.

Ken Head

If you have any comments on this poem,  Ken Head would be pleased to hear from you.