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‘The Back End of a Bad Year’

When I pass holly trees whose scarlet berries have survived
the birds’ attentions all this sodden season;

when I spot, with pleasure and alarm, a primrose open in December
and I wonder if the time is really ‘out of joint’, beyond repair;

and when, at night, the owls exchange their notes from wood to wood,
as clear, as deftly phrased, as ever human instrumentalist achieved;

when, all this year, I’m brought to tears
by heroisms daily, quietly enacted
by the hands and brains which serve us, save us, for their small reward;

when sane, sage voices warn of nightmares sure to come
when I and all my generation have been changed to earth and air
unless we summon up the better part of us
and act in concert now
so children yet unborn may live to bless, not curse, their ancestors;

then, childishly, in spite of every disappointment
age has taught this sadder (wiser? I don’t think so) man to bear
from crowds of clowns and crooks who rule our lives
— the carefree ease with which they formulate their lies —

I am compelled to hope.