Ann Keiffer

The Widow’s House

To All My Brave Readers: From time to time I will be writing what I am calling my Great Turning poems. It is my hope these poems might play their small part in The Great Turning as described by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone in their book: Active Hope: How To Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy. These poems will be non-sectarian, apolitical, and not directed at, for or against any person or people or country–but written on behalf of humankind and the singular, beautiful planet we live on. The poems won’t always be pretty. But that’s part of facing the mess we’re in. May we all become more conscious that how we live, the choices we make as individuals, have the power to move us all toward a greater good.

The Widow's House

Bombs, rockets, grenades,
assault-rifle fire cracking close,
running, screaming in the street.
Get out! Get out! Hurry!

An old woman, afraid.
Afraid for her children,
in another part of the city.
Afraid for herself,
too old to run,
but hurrying
as she can
out of her home,
stumbling into the
broken street,
heart and lungs on fire,
cannot catch her breath.
Neighbors grab her arms,
help get her to the school.
So many crowded together,
a human huddle of fear
on the schoolhouse floor.

Has it been hours,
has it been days,
pinned down in the school,
the percussive sounds of war
pounding their ears,
rattling bones,
shattering nerves?
How close are the
bombs and rockets
sometimes near
sometimes far?
She feels too old to be alive.
Barely able to help herself.
Unable to help
anyone else
in any way.

No electricity at the school,
no running water.
A few pieces of bread
to share amongst them.
A single plastic pail
the only toilet for many.
Babies, children, crying,
restless and weary.
Adults, too.
No place, not one,
to lay a body down,
not even a small one.

Finally, shouting in the street…
Cease-fire! Cease-fire!
A fragile quiet,
precarious as a balloon
among brambles.
How long can it last?
A moment to be seized,
scrambling to their feet,
grabbing up children,.
rushing out
the schoolhouse door
on their way
wherever they need to be.
In a hurry.
The old woman
struggles to stand.
Strangers again
take her elbows,
help her get to her feet.
How helpless she feels.

If she can just get home,
she will get her medicines,
her eyeglasses,
a blanket in which she will
wrap all this and any food
she can find
in the kitchen.
If the cease-fire breaks down,
she will be ready,
grab her bundle,
go, again, to the school,
this time, better prepared.

But from far down the street
she can already see
what her mind can’t believe.
Not one building on her street
remains whole, intact.
Everything is open
to the sky.
As if everyday life
has had its top
blown off.
Her home, her home,
bombed and shelled
into unrecognizable
chunks, parts, pieces
of this and that,
gray, everything gray,
covered in pulverized
concrete dust.
Her breath stuttering,
her throat seizing,
ache of tears.
Nothing left of a
Just moments ago
she thought she was
going home,
to a roof, a door,
food, medicine,
her glasses,
a blanket,
a future.
Only a blanket remains,
caught on a concrete beam
high above her.

Ann Keiffer
August, 2014
(AP Photo/Lefteris)


About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

Recent Poems

Buy My Book