Dulce et Decorum Est (After Wilfred Owen), by MAURYA SIMON

Bent double, like Atlas burdened by the world, Bludgeoned, coughing up blood, Rodney King succumbed, Till on that graphic scene we turned our backs, And towards our own rewards returned like ghosts. We courted sleep, though wakeful, dazed, and lost Amidst the limping decade shod in lame excuses; Blind, drunk on media hype, and deaf To our own consciences, we dropped our causes. Gas! FIRE! Quick boys--an ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting stone to fist--turning the clock back, But someone known was yelling out and stumbling And raging like a man aflame inside. Dim through the smoky screen and thick red light, As through a nightmare, I see us drowning. In all my dreams throughout the flagrant night He plunges at us, swearing, choking, drowning. If in some clarifying dream, you too could brace The stanchions that were flung at him, And watch the white eyes laughing in his face, His broken face, human and sick of sin, If you could hear, at every blow, the blood Come gurgling from the fear-corrupted lungs Bitter as the words, The thoughtless wounds, festering guilty tongues-- My friends, you would tell with burning hearts Your children ardent for some desperate worth, tell Them the old truth: It is bitter and deadly wrong To think each of us is not accountable for hell. For a discussion of poetry written and sent to the Times in response to the events of the last weeks, please see the Endpapers essay on page 10. Poet Maurya Simon recently gave her poetry class at UC Riverside Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" to use in a writing exercise: Students are to imitate the form while supplying the content. That week the verdict in the trial of the four policemen accused of beating Rodney G. King was handed down. Being in the habit of writing the assignments along with her students, Simon produced the poem above.

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