Katherine Gallagher

(7 September 1935 - / Maldon / Australia)

KATHE KOLLWITZ 'THE FACE OF WAR'' - Poem by Katherine Gallagher

'The exhibition must mean something, for all the works were extracted from my life...'
Kathe Kollwitz, in a letter, April 16, 1917

Black paint grits under my nails.
Always death, his death
leaping ahead. My son, eighteen,
how I begged him not to go.
I do not know the squalor he died in,
I only know how grief without hope
is waste.

I make hundreds of pictures
without their bringing me
closer to him — it is as though
I have lost the gift
to put my life into the work.

I am caught at forty-nine
fraught forever by what I cannot change.


In every house, there is death —
we are mesmerised, submerged.

For two years I have tried
to draw the mother
who takes her dead child in her arms —
I seek my son as I might find him
in the work, but nothing comes.

Only the tumult of the search
has dragged me on
to that point where
language has changed,
where I have changed.
I feared his death too much.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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