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READ, Herbert

Bombing Casualties *

Doll’s faces are rosier but these were children

their eyes not glass but gleaming gristle

dark lenses in whose quicksilvery glances

the sunlight quivered. These blanched lips

were warm once and bright with blood

but blood

held in a moist blob of flesh

not split and spatter’d in tousled hair.

In these shadowy tresses

red petals did not always

thus clot and blacken to a scar.

These are dead faces:

wasps’ nests are not more wanly waxen

wood embers not so greyly ashen.

They are laid out in ranks

like paper lanterns that have fallen

after a night of riot

extinct in the dry morning air.

* Spanish Civil War