ScrubwomanThe scrubwoman for the old bank and jailhouse,
Her face reddeningOver supper on a steamy night,
Is thinking of the village spillway beingAnswered by a dry clucking over mud, she is
Touching the burs on the tongue of the azalea...Exhaustion puts knotted rags in the neck
And shoulders:As a girl, in Poland, she watched her husband
Be dragged through the shade of five pinesTo the execution wall. A year earlier
She had watched him batheIn the bronze tub the landlord had put
Out in the field as a trough for horses.
She picked him from among the men
Smoking pipes after haying, she rolled
Over on her stomach
To study the blue cornflower; she shyly
Rained on the wildflowers, a hot urine...
They laughed, and never knew her brother
Was taken by train to Hamburg, was infected
With tuberculosis, was
In the last days of the war
Stripped along with six other children
And hanged in the boiler room of a post office.
What she has understood
Is there are only
Two speeches the naked make well:
One is of welcome; the other, farewell.--- From The Mercy Seat
©2001 Copper Canyon Press