The Late World
More Lines on a Shield Abandoned During Battle
The one time I said something
Awful to someone
I didn’t know the meaning of,
It hardly mattered to him how empty
My head was
As his three younger brothers jumped
Down from the barn loft they slept in
And closed ranks behind him.
The hen he’d been about to kill
Rejoined a few others feeding
Near the stump.
—Are you talking to me? he said.
And it’s true--
As you and anyone who’s ever scattered knows,
And usually sooner—someone or something
Will ask what you mean--
The world lives in a person,
The earlier he learns
To imagine racing over
Someone’s countryside, and making off with its riches--
As you and your brief nation did--
Then coming up
Face to face
With one of them better armed.
I’m glad we ran, both of us, having
Straddled that line
There are only dogs’ jaws
About the river of death,
And how there are no limits to its length,
And how someone had better live
To tell the others.