Volume 35, Number 2

There Will Be Warnings

There will be warnings, we were told,
and there were.
But when the first ones came,
we thought they might be something else.
So we waited.

Some warnings rumbled,
some warnings roared.
Some came stealthily, silent as sea-rise.
In the suburbs they sometimes shimmered first,
then darkened like locusts, littering lawns
with strange detritus
that we quickly raked into piles
and set on fire.

There will be warnings,
we told each other. Better ones.
And there were.
But when they came,
we could not agree
which were warnings
and which were simply changes
in the weather.

So we argued.
And told our children:
There will be warnings.

There were, of course.
But, by then, having endured decades
of them ourselves, we also winked a disclaimer:
They are only warnings.

And to the warnings we missed
we built monuments, carving their words
in granite, into history.
So that we, the ghosts of what
we don’t remember, could tell stories
about them, and pretend to be
what we rarely were in real life:
courageous, wise, and good.

—James Lilliefors