Tower of Mothers, by Gail Peck

Gail Peck

after Käthe Kollwitz, bronze sculpture,
1938, and two photographs
in Newsweek, 2006

Today their hearts are stone,
these mothers who’ve created
a fortress with their bodies,
their children peeking from the folds
of skirts. One mother has her bare feet
planted, another has her fist in the air.
No, they shout at marching boots,
planes overhead. Nothing can get
to the children now—what kind
of game is this they ask?
It has no name.


In the photograph of the gravesite,
a girl in blue pants and green top
is behind a casket. She is not
looking at it, her eyes are clouds.
She leans against a woman’s lap,
her head tilted away
from the soldier who cups her chin.
The girl has a hand full
of red flowers, the other held loosely
around one rose about to fall.


The boy, probably four, lies face
down on dirt, rock. His pants
shredded by a mortar, his feet, legs, arms
soiled from dust. White shirt someone
must have buttoned, one sleeve
not fully covering the arm bent backward.
Who will come gather him, wash
his body, comb his hair?

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