The returned conscript dances with his mother, unscathed body crowned by his beaming smile; her yellow-ribboned hair the only bright thing
on her angled, wistful head. He still has all his mother. She has just one of three sons. She knows it’s good he still has two legs to kick with, two hands to scoop
her into air with relief, with delight. Her neighbour’s boy’s body ends at his thighs. Strays on the street snap at his chair’s wheels. Yet her silent wish – to hold three half-sons rather than one whole.
No amount of waltzes or polkas make her forget her sons in the ground – if that’s where they are; exploded to shreds, red spray and crow food.
Patrick Cotter received the Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry in 2013. His publications include A Socialist’s Dozen (1990) and Perplexed Skin (2008). Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Financial Times, POETRY (Chicago), Poetry Review, The Awl and the Irish Times.