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Published: Wed Oct 15 1986
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Children Still Play

Children still play, but their elders, who know, are afraid:
a silent, peaceful army has occupied the land
with stealthy, unseen sharpshooters, fragments of strontium,
so casual and lethal an enemy it salutes everyone,
inside a fort and out. Touched by those waves,
the great are joined in so tiny a dance they think
their world still: their yachts ride the deep, their mansions
gaze over lakes, a conspiracy nobody feels.

Generals bend over their plans, and this is the way
it is done: “We move, they move, and we all embrace
that little, fine rain that comes.” An end like that
has always been in the plans—death will always
provide company for the dead—
when Moses was on the mountain that is what God said.

See what's inside AGNI 23

William Stafford (1914–1993) was the author of many widely admired volumes of poetry and prose. He won the National Book Award for his poetry collection Traveling through the Dark and served as consultant in poetry at the Library of Congress—the position now known as poet laureate of the United States.

Stafford’s The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems was reviewed in AGNI 49 by Eric McHenry.

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