A Student Reads a Poem by Auden

March 20, 2003

We must love one another or die.
The teenager recites a poet’s warning
to a world at war on September 1, 1939.

Again, a blizzard piles anger into drifts.
War drums pound airwaves uncertain
and afraid as the clever hopes expire.
The powerful sell words of honor
in precise sound bites with smiling eyes.
All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie.

Her voice sets off another decade’s siren.
Our world in stupor lies; feet scrape
the floor, one coughs, another hums.

The teacher glances up and remembers
how she, too, once thought an oracle
could find all lost in a haunted wood.

Today, a young girl mouths your words,
echoing across decades to flash out
wherever the Just exchange their message.

Outside the snow continues to fall.
She doesn’t know the flame is hers alone.
Her beauty, too, forever changed and terrible.

Common Ground Review, Spring/Summer, 2008

Lines from W.H. Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939”

This poem surfaced as the U.S. entered war with Iraq.

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