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Social Security

No one is safe. The streets are unsafe.
Even in the safety zones, it's not safe.
Even safe sex is not safe.
Even things you lock up in a safe
are not safe. Never deposit anything
in a safe-deposit box, because it
won't be safe there. Nobody is safe
at home during baseball games anymore.

At night I go around in the dark
locking everything, returning
a few minutes later
to make sure I locked
everything. It's not safe here.
It's not safe and they know it.
People get hurt using safety pins.

It was not always this way.
Long ago, everyone felt safe. Aristotle
never felt danger. Herodotus felt danger
only when Xerxes was around. Young women
were afraid of wingèd dragons, but felt
relaxed otherwise. Timotheus, however,
was terrified of storms until he played
one on the flute. After that, everyone
was more afraid of him than of the violent
west wind, which was fine with Timotheus.
Euclid, full of music himself, believed only
that there was safety in numbers.

—Terence Winch

from The Paris Review, Volume 42, Number 156, Fall 2001
The Paris Review

Copyright 2001 by Terence Winch.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of The Paris Review from The Paris Review. Copyright 2001 by James Lasdun. For further permissions information, contact Terence Winch, wincht@nmai.si.edu or tpwinch@netkonnect.net, 202-287-2020 x191.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

The son of Irish immigrants, poet, musician, and author Terence Winch (1945- ) was born in the Bronx, New York City. Winch is the author of seven poetry collections, including This Way Out, published (Hanging Loose Press, 2014).

Learn more about Terence Winch at The Poetry Foundation.