On Fritz Eichenberg’s “Pieta”

Joseph Ross

If human eyes can see
desolation, then this woman
is its wet, furious face.

Her dead son’s blood soaks
this wood, this cross, this
chalk outline on the concrete

of our century. Her boy, not lost,
not gone, but killed.
If human arms can carry

bones, then this woman’s
arms, caught in the moon’s
dishonest light, now hold

the limp skeleton
she once groaned from
between her legs,

baptizing him at his first
cough, in the birth waters
emptying from her body.

Now, her own fingers
shiver as she holds him,
her legs spread wide

once again, only this time
they keep his crushed
frame from falling

to the earth as she offers
him up in anger,
in a twisting grief

on the altar of her arms.

Joseph Ross is a poet and writer in Washington, D.C. His poems appear in many journals and anthologies including Poetic Voices Without Borders 1 and 2, Drumvoices Revue, Poet Lore, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Tidal Basin Review, and Full Moon on K Street. In 2007, he co-edited Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero's Abu Ghraib. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and writes regularly at www.JosephRoss.net. He directs the Writing Center at Carroll High School in Washington, D.C.