Posted by: Mark Nielsen | July 26, 2017

After the War, poem by David Dwyer [for Kathleen Norris]

After the War
by David Dwyer {to whom Kathleen dedicated her 2008 book, _Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life}
             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.

     David Dwyer (1946-2003) lived in Lemmon, South Dakota. His Ariana Olisvos: Her Last Works and Days (Univ. of Mass. Press, 1976) won the Juniper Prize (1980). 


  1. ahem. hello.

    “rock-a-by baby in the tree top..

    “when the wind blows the cradle rock”


    Right Hand of God

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