Mother and Child

Issue ThreePoetry

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By Bill Cotter

 

Suffer little children to come unto me: for such is the kingdom of heaven.

 

The sky sickens

And fuses darkness, semi-light and shadow

Into one corrosive, creeping grey.

Belly deep and distant, cannons cough among the hills.

But, she neither hears nor cares.

Seated, grey and anonymous among the scattered bricks

And bent above a bundle that stirs, settles and stirs again,

Weakly, weakly and ever more weakly.

 

She is, it seems, iconography’s gift,

The eternal mother, sketched, framed, sculpted,

Recognized and lauded through the centuries.

The eternal flame of hope.

 

But, her stillness is the stillness of despair.

The minute arm struggling to reach her breast

Has no more strength than the arm of a spider.

The tears on his face are slow scribbles of wet dust.

And his parched, paper thin lips will find no sustenance.

Her breasts are dry, withered as old rags.

 

Now the curled, delicate fingers slow, stop

And, in the broken, silent street,

A mother sits, shrouding her dead child.

 

Image by Mike Labrum