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The Dreadful Has Already Happened

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Written by Mark Strand

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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 beyond 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.


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