We stand at the Capitol
seized in snapshots
of curious tourists
our rumpled posters reflect
in an officer's shades as he speaks
so softly it surprises me
asking us to step off the sidewalk
his voice as a shepherd beckons
his flock, his accent sunned in Southern
syllables. Maybe "sheep" is not the most
desirable metaphor for human protestors
but clumped with the others I let go
of my small life to be a cluster
warmed by fellow shoulders
our faces a brief constellation of togetherness.
In the February chill as the Capitol
glows lunar behind us, our silence
mushrooms into a vortex
a great ear hinged to the cold skull of the sky.
Poets, watchers, news camera, officers,
residents hurrying by on their cells, callers
on the other end of those phones -- pinched
together in an irrevocable clay.
From the far end of Lafayette Park a drove
of starlings twists and wheels
silver flash under wings, black top feathers
sweep the space between us and the sun
as if to clean the sky
of blood and bone wind-born.
I'm not listening to the birds now clamped
to a single tree top, chattering whether
to stay or move on; I'm not listening to the listening,
the fruit of silence; I'm not listening to the deaf bell
stamping its hard thick notes to the downward wind --
I'm listening to the war. To its silence.
It sounds like peace, it sounds like rest;
but it is hollow, it is the whole endless groan
of mothers who have lost their motherhood.