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Portrait Of A Family


When the strangers walked into the house,

took the paintings off the walls, and

sealed off the rooms with red wax,


part of this poem listened in a hospital. A woman’s milk

fed the words she couldn’t say into her child’s mouth.

For seven months men in suits stayed in the house.


Someone tied the hands of the man

who inflamed the center of the capital with protest,

while they took the paintings off the walls.


A few lines cowered in the grass, outside the windows,

with the neighbors who watched the girl answering questions

to the strangers who settled into the house.


And yet someone followed her sister on the streets

and photographed her pure black eyes,

deep and knowing in the paintings on the walls.


Now that the strangers have left the house

the poem would like to know:

can it place once more the paintings on the walls,

will the son tell the secrets of his mother’s milk,

will the handcuffs come off the man’s hands,

will the girl stop answering questions,

will her sister burn the photographs in the gorse?



[Originally published in NHS 2000, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs00/bugan.html.]