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Children Still Play

by William Stafford

Children still play, but their elders, who know, are afraid:
a silent, peaceful army has occupied the land
with stealthy, unseen sharpshooters, fragments of strontium,
so casual and lethal an enemy it salutes everyone,
inside a fort and out. Touched by those waves,
the great are joined in so tiny a dance they think
their world still: their yachts ride the deep, their mansions
gaze over lakes, a conspiracy nobody feels.

Generals bend over their plans, and this is the way
it is done: “We move, they move, and we all embrace
that little, fine rain that comes.” An end like that
has always been in the plans—death will always
provide company for the dead—
when Moses was on the mountain that is what God said.


William Stafford, who has been Poetry Consultant for the Library of Congress, published A Glass Face in the Rain in 1982. His Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation was published by the University of Michigan Press. (1986)

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