IN BLACK: September 11,
Alone on the north steps of the Capitol
in Sacramento a woman stands—a dark pool of quiet
in the sea of speeches and songs.
People gather on wide stairs,
in scattered dots on the broad green,
by a microphone installed for politicians
clearing their throats, eager to speak.
People light candles.
The woman stands in silence,
dressed in black, veil covering her face.
Another woman, also in black, mounts the steps,
sets down her purse.
She, too, drapes black over her head,
assumes a comfortable stance, folds her hands.
Their only greeting a small sad smile
one to the other.
Within minutes a dozen more Women in Black
cluster near the first one, each covered head
like the rest.
For some the silence comes easily,
they meditate in full public view.
Some twitch and wriggle, think of lists,
worry about who will take the kids to soccer.
One, giggly with nerves, whispers
to the large woman beside her,
is gently hushed by a head turned aside.
A small boy in a red 49ers shirt stops,
fetches his brother, stares at faces hidden behind silk.
A street musician strums a few chords, ambles
back to the sidewalk, singing.
Eyes wide and stricken, a man in a worn suit halts.
His companion stumbles on her platform heels,
mutters a curse, grabs his arm and yanks.
Policemen glance at the women, see no threat, look away.
For an hour in the noontime sun, in their black
clothes and silence, the women witness
for all mothers their sorrow at the death
of even one innocent out in the rain
of bullets and blood.
Patricia Wellingham-Jones is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, author of Don’t Turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, and Welcome, Babies as well as editor of Labyrinth: Poems & Prose. She has been published widely in print and online journals and anthologies.