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 Poet
Rita Frances Dove is an American poet and essayist. From 1993 to 1995, she served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She is the first African American to have been appointed since the position was created by an act of Congress in 1986. Dove is the second African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1987, and she served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. Since 1989, she has been teaching at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.