Nancy Himel

The Carousel War

One sent her children away.
One lost a child to a ping
and puff of smoke. They walked

two days and have finally found
a safe place to sit, a place
to wrap their arms around each other

a place to muse their husbands’ shadows
husbands who sent them away
as they raised rifles to shoulders

husbands who aimed those rifles
at pets, who pointed and promised
to shoot if their wives did not leave.

How will these women forget the tears
of their children, children forced into silence
by their fathers’ angry but empty eyes?

How will they forget the black and gray horses
they sit on, horses that seem more Chagall
than barn-born, more Cossack memory than real?

This is the final moment of stillness
that tender moment before the swirl of war
blows weighted endings through the wind

to unseat them. One holds the dying flowers
of an anniversary bouquet. Behind them
women wait in line to hold, to ride, to swirl, to fall.