Photo from Kyiv
This is not the flag we want to see, white plume,
streaked with red, drooping above the rubble
from the blackened building. It is suitable
these days for a surrender, perhaps of a Red Cross. We’re afraid
it’s a bloody sheet but then we see it’s a blanket or quilt
waving slightly in the golden light of the spring evening.
In truth, it is a crochet, bleached white by overexposure
in the news photo, hand made for an old man
by a daughter-in-law, bearing the colors of his favorite
football club, not a serviceable image for a war poem.
Often inside a window there will be a person. And inside
the window that was in the wall that has been blown
out of the side of the building where the blanket hangs
there was a small table, a lamp, beside a couch
where a grandfather liked to nap in the late afternoon sun
that came in the window. In winter, he’d pull the blanket
his daughter wove for him off the back of the couch
and spread it over his cold feet and old legs. The couch is visible,
perched, as if waiting, at the broken edge of oblivion.
There was the sound of an old man sleeping, the air
moving through him. Then the whistle of something moving
through air. The old man did not wake, did not move,
but pieces of things moved inside him, tearing through bone
and tissue, tendon and blood and his dream ended. Now he is
missed, mourned, and the sorrow pours from his aged wife,
his son and daughter-in-law, his grandchildren who want
to know where he is and wonder if he flew out where
the wall once was. What does the old man’s son tell them?
The tears go on and on. The anger rages, like fire, rises
and falls, but it is there, every day, dragged through them
like the scouring of hunger, the strain of thirst, the clench
of fear that does not go away day on day on day. Some
go out, pick up the weapons of death and some wish for it
in the horror of war, the loss, the pain, the missing.
Do not speak to me of death, the easy word. We wrap it around us,
tight across our shoulders, clutching certainty. Against horror
we throw money, shout wishes, blow kisses, know nothing.