Incantation of the First Order

By Rita Dove

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.

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