Herbert Edward Read

Bombing Casualties: Spain

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Dolls' faces are rosier but these were children
their eyes not glass but gleaming gristle
dark lenses in whose quicksilvery glances
the sunlight quivered. These blenched lips
were warm once and bright with blood
but blood
held in a moist bleb of flesh
not spilt and spatter'd in touseled hair.

In these shadowy tresses
red petals did not always
thus clot and blacken to a scar.


These are dead faces:
wasps' nests are not more wanly waxen
wood embers not so grely ashen.


They are laid out in ranks
like paper lanterns that have fallen
after a night of riot
extinct in the dry morning air.

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Herbert Edward Read