they sent children to wash windows

shadow flight

they sent children to wash windows
with vinegar and Thursday’s war news
small print columned row on row on row
and bunched to grayness in thin smallish hands,
mere time sop meant to numb bomb blasted hours
and fill hungry listlessness with acrid cider smell,
all blent with carbon infused ink and city smolder

inside out and outside in…glass panes they rubbed
to glistening…watched migratory wild geese fly arrows
across smoke smudged sky…watched steam hover
gray stink of cabbage soup boiling on a stove

until one day…glass shattered on the walk
beside the living room…and parents gravely
oh…so gravely, hung gas masks on necks of
their bare kneed innocents and dressed them
as for church…wool hats and coats for the exodus
long hours behind train glass windows and open
sashed trams to a country place

inside one such transport…as if on cue
children reached their arms through apertures
each side in unison waved one two one two
up down up down…as no longer framed
and ledged they future flew


Bonnie Marshall

Artwork by Elle McKay

9 thoughts on “they sent children to wash windows

  1. What powerful – and beautifully connected – images… the small hands crunching newspaper to wash windows, the shattered glass of those windows, the children waving from the windows of the trains.

    1. A friend who was losing her memory of that experience still recalled enough to tell me about window washing with newspapers. Thank you for mentioning the correspondence, fine writer.

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