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
A sash of winter starlings
from The Narrows
disintegrates in freeze
of intrusive Arctic air.
Hits zero to their bones.
Their flutter tumbles
jostle willow scrub.
Soft rustlings all around,
and thin twigs snap.
Where low breakers
wash crispy sand flats,
a Portaferry girl and boy
gather rubbery sea wrack,
to pack in wicker baskets
to strengthen soil at home.
The children startle,
to glimpse death
as birds falling from the sky.
They stack dead starlings
black green purple shine
in rows upon the wrack.
Feed for the pigs.
Da might smile.
Boy snaps the necks
of birds that struggle
with some trace of warm.
Thumb and forefinger.
Strong hand, that.
He walks the sand for more.
Girl…she lives the troubles
knows to set the moment
of her brother’s joy in killing.
Tiny sparks to nurture flames.