Happy End

Shh! Rise and be quick about it. Gather your things.

Brother, sister: You were older
but I was the strong one,
humming one leg, two,

now socks, now shoes—
all our games lost to shadow.
Just one toy, small. Nothing that rattles.

We knew not to whimper. We set out
where the moon had lain down
a silver rapier,

gravel gnashing its teeth—straight into
the forest they walked us. (Or
were we sent? Either way,

they left or fell back, were simply gone.)
We plucked berries until night
seeped in, soaking the brambles;

the pebbles dropped to mark our trail
stuttering to a stop: We come this far,
they whispered.

No crumbs for birdsong, so you sang yourself
toward slumber. I lay down, out of habit,
though there was nothing to see:

The heavens were drowning.
Then suddenly, it was day—
still dreaming, we scrambled up

to greet the dawn, only to face
a line of suns, flashing swirls of red, gold, blue—
I reached for your hand.

This tale was not meant for children,
yet here we were. No other
home expected us. What child

could have resisted such profusion,
the brass-bright proclamation
that someone had found them?

Rita Dove, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a former U.S. poet laureate, most recently published the collection Playlist for the Apocalypse. She teaches at the University of Virginia.