Because I work with words, and you do too,
you ask me to come stand with you today,
thinking the words that bind us—and they do—
have brought us close enough for you to say

with confidence that you know how I feel
at such a time as this, at such a time
when I can hardly find a word that’s real
enough, can hardly find a sensate rhyme

to start to say I don’t know what to think,
may never know, but know enough to know
I cannot stand with those who march, spill ink,
and protest, or with those who scream to go

and kill and kill. My occupation’s gone
if I cannot be poet without being sure
always of what to say, what should be done.
It’s different for some. Their answer’s pure

and simple, and I understand. I’m glad,
though mystified. They are so sure what’s right.
They have the faith that I have never had.
In place of it I’ve doubts that make me write

and question, write, and doubt, and ask again
about all this. Friends, how can I explain?
I cannot stand with you. This much is clear:
I hold you dear. I hold my doubts more dear.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 2, on page 37
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