WOMEN IN BLACK: September 11, 2002
By Patricia Wellingham-Jones

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.


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