Ariel Dorfman has spent his life all over the globe, but always near the center of world literature. In the early 1970s he served as cultural advisor to Chilean president Salvador Allende, until a US-backed coup drove him into exile. You can read about the experience of that dislocation in his classic Heading North, Looking South. He writes poetry, essays, novels; his plays have been widely performed; and here he shows he’s a master of that new genre, the 350-word piece. We’re awfully grateful. For more poems and essays, click here.


by Ariel Dorfman


Oh dear Oh dear Oh dear

What should I do?

The polar bears are dying out.

Oh dear Oh dear

The children cannot breathe.

What should I do?

The elephants have nowhere

to flee.

The elephants Oh dear it’s true.

What should I

can I

must I do?

Oh dear Oh

Three Five O

Oh dear that scares me scares me so

Oh dear we won’t survive

Three Five O up in the sky

and no more birth

and it’s good-bye.

The seventh extinction is on its way.

Can the eighth extinction be far behind?

Oh dear

It’s much too big for little me

Not a tree not a tree

not even a shade of green.

Oh dear oh dear.

The cities all


wiped out.

The drought the plague the black dark


Not even a bird

for our last breath.

And there’s nothing



I can do.

Much too big for you for him for her for me.

We’re melting the sea.

Oh dear


Oh if I could only trust

the hand that is close

the hand that is here

Oh if I could count all over again

but not with dread.

Maybe one plus one makes more than two

maybe three can be three million strong

in fact

maybe five means five billion tall

ready to act

to make that O the sign of birth

and not the mark

of nightmares long

and lonely bread.

Three Five O


Three Five O

organizers bold

bells that toll

climbers on the mountain

divers under the reef

we’ll come together

we’ll come together

in every corner of the earth

we have very little time

but we have each other

we have very little time

but I have little you

and you have little me

and time enough for us

to act and be free

as long as we have each other

one hand in my hand

there can only be birth

my dear oh my dear

there’s just love enough and time

now and here

now and here

to act and then nothing



to fear

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