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Published: Tue Apr 15 1980
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
After the War

 A vision for Kathleen

The sickness will come to all of us, out of the air;
we will have poisoned what we live in—a thing
no rat would ever do. That silly book
of Nevil Shute’s will turn out true, and even
the worst imaginings of Orwell and of Aldous Huxley
will seem utopian.
_                               _ Despairingly, we’ll sort through the proverbs:
a cat will still be able to look at a king,
but no one will know the way to the dairy, no one
will tell the emperor the truth or hear the truth
if it is spoken.
_                         _It will not be spoken. Secretly,
each of us will absorb what she must. The pot
of gold at rainbow’s end will be radioactive
and death to touch; the miraculous child will not
be born; disappointment will spread, will become the natural
state-of-things. Expecting salvation, a few of us
will pray to the empty sky; believing in reason,
a few will write strictly accurate accounts of the sickness.

Still, the sickness will come to us all: to the young,
the beautiful, the cheerleaders and the quarterbacks, the ill-
at-ease, the all-too-confident . . .
_                                                           _At the very end,
simple kindness will count for something: unable
to help each other (could we ever?), we will share
morphine and alcohol and silly jokes . . .

I hope I will have the strength to wipe the blood
and sweat and so on from your face and lie to you;
I hope you will do the same for me. The others
will ask each other: “Did we win? Did we win?” I hope
that you and I will know.

See what's inside AGNI 12

David Dwyer lives in Lemmon, South Dakota. His Ariana Olisvos: Her Last Works and Days (Univ. of Mass. Press, 1976) won the Juniper Prize. (updated 1980)

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