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  4. “The Dreadful Has Already Happened” by Mark Strand
“The Dreadful Has Already Happened”

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The relatives are leaning over, staring expectantly.   
They moisten their lips with their tongues. I can feel   
them urging me on. I hold the baby in the air.   
Heaps of broken bottles glitter in the sun.

A small band is playing old fashioned marches.   
My mother is keeping time by stamping her foot.   
My father is kissing a woman who keeps waving   
to somebody else. There are palm trees.

The hills are spotted with orange flamboyants and tall   
billowy clouds move behind them. “Go on, Boy,”   
I hear somebody say, “Go on.”
I keep wondering if it will rain.

The sky darkens. There is thunder.   
“Break his legs,” says one of my aunts,   
“Now give him a kiss.” I do what I’m told.   
The trees bend in the bleak tropical wind.

The baby did not scream, but I remember that sigh   
when I reached inside for his tiny lungs and shook them   
out in the air for the flies. The relatives cheered.   
It was about that time I gave up.

Now, when I answer the phone, his lips
are in the receiver; when I sleep, his hair is gathered   
around a familiar face on the pillow; wherever I search   
I find his feet. He is what is left of my life.

Mark Strand, “ ‘The Dreadful Has Already Happened’ ” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Source: Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990)
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“The Dreadful Has Already Happened”

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