Incantation of the First Order
Listen, no one signed up for this lullaby.
No bleeped sheep or rosebuds or twitching stars
will diminish the fear or save you from waking
into the same day you dreamed of leaving—
mockingbird on back order, morning bells
stuck on snooze—so you might as well
get up and at it, pestilence be damned.
Peril and risk having become relative,
I’ll try to couch this in positive terms:
Never! is the word of last resorts,
Always! the fanatic’s rallying cry.
To those inclined toward kindness, I say
Come out of your houses drumming. All others,
beware: I have discarded my smile but not my teeth.
Copyright © 2021 by Rita Dove. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.