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kiran goswami  Oct 2018
My Weight
kiran goswami Oct 2018
They ask me a question every day,
They ask me 'Oh darling! How much do you weigh?'
And I answer this question every day,
I wish to tell them,
'I am not made up of flesh and bones,
I do not weigh on scales and stones.
I weigh the love letters never sent,
I weigh my heart I gave on rent,
I weigh all my insecurities,
I weigh Ganga's purities.
I weigh the prayers of my mother.
I weigh the hard work of my father.
I weigh the thirty-two-inch smile I carry and flaunt every day,
I weigh the fears which haunt me every day,
I weigh all the love I have for him,
And I am certain that weighs more than the stories I dream,
I weigh the fairytales I've read,
And I weigh the kindness I've fed.
I weigh my hope,
And I weigh my dreams.
I weigh my faith,
And I weigh my screams.
So I weigh the lightest I could ever be,
And the heaviest you could ever imagine being.'
But then in the end,
I murmur the words '47 kilograms',
A lean and skinny girl is what I am.
Alessia  Dec 2018
What I weigh
Alessia Dec 2018
What do I weigh?
I weigh the responsibility of my ancestors for what they did to those of a different color
I weigh down the cons from the pros
I weigh the burden of what society says is ideal for me
I weigh the opinion of you, then I choose to ignore it
I weigh more than you can carry
But I will carry myself
Through the tricky path you’ve never bothered to help me clear
For you have never had to walk it
I will leave it clear for future generations to map out
So they will never weigh what I do
sunflower Jun 2013
Wake up  
Look in mirror
                      fat
Take off clothes
Look in mirror
                      why is my stomach so swollen looking??
                      ******* hate this body
                      especially my stomach
Weigh  
                      102.3
                ­      finally
Breakfast  
Strawberries
                      ­10 calories
Coffee and cream
                      34 calories..
                      too many
                      need energy, though
                      fine.
strawberries+coffee+cream=­ 44 calories
Weigh
                      102.6
                  ­    **** it
*****
Weigh
                      102.4
                 ­     better
Go for run
                      burned 400 calories
Hungry
                      can't eat
Look in mirror
                      the way my fat sticks out is disgusting
Weigh
                      102.4
100 sit ups
                      burned 50 calories
200 jumping jacks
                      burned 70 calories
Look in mirror
                      why am I not thin yet
                      don't fade out again
Passes out
Go to doctor
Says too thin
                      don't lie to me
Dinner
Peach
                      36 calories
Energy drink
                      210 calories
                      ugh
                      ne­ed it desperately though
strawberries+coffee+cream+peach+energy drink= 290
Weigh
                      103.1
                      ­hate myself
Stare in mirror
Stare in mirror
Stare in mirror
Examine body
*****
Weigh
                      102.1
200 sit ups
                      burned 100 calories
Get dumped by boyfriend
                      it's probably because I'm fat
Take shower
Get out
Look in mirror
                      you are disgusting
Go to bed
                      I hate myself


REALITY
scary thin
ate too little, exercised too much
unrealistically saw herself
died two years later of a self inflicted gunshot to the head and a starved soul
**note said: “I love you, but I hate myself and the fact I'll never be small enough for you”
Angela Alegna Jun 2015
The tenderness as they described it is circumnavigating more than the ******* and the roundness of my protruding *******
Perhaps by tenderness of the breast, what they really mean is tenderness of the soul and the emotions one hurriedly tucks under the crevices of their *****
If one imagines how ******* are anything but tender, with their ferocity of nurturing life and their wholly encompassing nature to weigh and weigh and weigh
Weight carried by a mother,
Shed off by her daughter,
Caressed by the one she lies with in the crevice of her soul and the gap between twin XL bunk beds and walls full of picture of people who no longer weigh her down
It's the feeling of nostalgia and nostalgia feeling this tenderness growing from one's *******.
Growth of the ***** of life as a life imagined is destroyed, nullified, kaput.
But most of all she feels nostalgia.
Nostalgia for the people whose tenderness she felt,
Nostalgia yes for her brother and grandmother cloaked in love around her neck like crystals from an iridescent silver clasp
Lizzy  Apr 2015
Burden girl
Lizzy Apr 2015
I say I live as a burden,
My mouth sealed shut.
So that I may not utter the words,
Of my weighted thoughts.

These truths weigh a ton,
And I've far too many for just one head.
For even mine.
My head bobs to my shoulder,
Weakened necks can't hold this.

Now I'm shaking,
Trembling.
Because I gave you the rocks,
The stones that broke my neck.
And you are fading,
Drifting all at once.

Give me your boulders,
And we will be even.
Give me your mountains,
So I can rest easy.

My burdenous brain
Broken neck
Heavy thoughts

I never meant to break your neck too
Ken Pepiton Aug 2018
A pocket of thought, ideas.
Impulses, has beens

epi-phenom-enal-con-currencies-synchron-icity
sorting places, thens and nows vying for attention

you see
we till stories in search of true tomorrows
not true
yesterdays (till, I said, not tell)
we **** the hard rows no one else will ***
so seed lies sown are never lies told, if the lies are never taught
or if the liars are caught before convincing the
intended crop to lie and swear a common liege Lord,
or die
for lack of knowing. Non-nascence, simplest
symptom to not see.
Whose death is yours to respond responsibly
to? My child's, or yourn?
In the early days, we knew less than we know now
about how knowing and growing were all
intended
to cost time. Ticks, ono motto whatever, the sound
gears and spiral springs pushing cogs
tick, one tooth tick at atime make

this rough, un polished, un glossed, is it wrong or

as I imagine a diamond in the rough must seem to a share cropper
experienced in diamond hunting, diamond prospecting,

prospecting expecting inspection to permit
seeing a 3.2 specific gravity,
specific
specify

species or spectacles,
spectators or special-if-eye-cation
value-en-abled. Weigh your mind in balance
with mine. I claim the mind of Christ.
What are the odds?

A wandering path, injoyable enable if-i-abble,
pacing is

everything, timing is everything, time is the test.

Time is the metagame.
Take your time. One word formed sylabble at a time.
Babble on, your confusion makes you mortal, to my mind.
Tick.
A quanta of time. Does time come in bits and pieces cernible,
but undiscernible from reality?

Babble.

Of course, time will tell. We learned that in our sleep, did we not?

Aesop taught us more than Moses, no,
Aesop taught us less than Moses.

But, we could learn to walk bearing the weight of knowing what
Aesop taught,
while we could not stand under the weight
Moses was said
to have taught.

Caught you, Jewboy. Whatchewknow?
The moral of the story.

THE IDEA is to win.
Beware the concision decision.
incisive devices, witty inventions.

Flip the shell, roll the bones, cast the runes and,
as luck might have it, die before your time.

Why factors are lies more oft than how factors.
Benefactors rule malefactors or
how or why would we invest our time in seeking reasons
to believe?

Is this the polished piece, the gemstone of specific gravity
(which currently means nothing to you. Here, you find too light
or too heavy, too weighty on the scale of specific value.)

Hard. Value hard, diamond hard, on Mr. Moore's scaled model of
Knowing exploding for reason's sake, raison d'etre, eh?
Too hard?
Not Mohr,
don't get me wrong.
We been Moore's law breaker all along.
We be manifested destinatory stories of heroes gone wrong.

Outlawed
knowing exploding to be reasoned with, by kind
children destined to become
written in stone, scarred by lies

Diamonds cutting diamonds, iron whetting iron
on eternity's edge.

Babylon, was it Bel's gate or fusion from below rising?

Magma fountains with diamond claws tearing the lands asunder
Is asunder still a word?, let me, allow me to define...
"into a position apart, separate,
into separate parts,"
mid-12c., contraction of Old English on sundran 
Middle English used to know asunder for
"distinguish, tell apart."
From <https://www.etymonline.com/word/asunder>
----

mumbler's humbler PIE, bowing before the knowers who
know nothing of my work.
Set apart, art thou holy aware?

Hermit me, meet the rest of me. The true rest that remained.
We live, you and I. Trust me, next is worth the wait.

Suffer needs no pain to make its point. Waiting is.

Grokk. WHO would believe that idea could live
through telegraphese to be tweet meets for the
Cosplay clans. How never grokked a rock,  why even less.

Strange, not be long in this
place. if
place this be. Odd
set aside
torn asunder
blown away.
Awake, little birdie, tell me true,
what's a man like me to do?

Did you meet the famous Mr. Blake?
I cleaned his chimney, way back when, chimbly's whut
we called em. Smoke stacks belchin' black
makin' black moths invisible to voracious
gulls.
Now the peppered moths are free
to be white-ish, for better or worse.

----

right, now, do right or

miss the mark,
the specific mark you made, maybe,
imagining, abstract obstructions missed
by the skin on Job's teeth as you run past

right now to more. You know?

----=

Story telling was the same as lying when I was a child, to me.

Telling stories was my gift I never took. Or am I lying? or mad,
in the old way.
Chailot's rag picker was my best friend.

No noble thought ever found it's home in my head, once
I thunk it, it stunk to high heaven, for me stinkin' thinkin' it.

Po' ems sang sour to fiddles wit' one strang and drums with no
cymbals
Screamin' he owed m' soul the comp'ny sto' bang bang thud.

I died, he lied, and lived to tell this story, ****** if I know,
****** if I don't.

True as true can be. I am lost, but once was found,
lyin' rough, uncut in acres of unseen gems.
----
* Voltaire refused to teach me any thing I could not define:
late 14c., deffinen, diffinen, "to specify; to fix or establish authoritatively;" of words, phrases, etc., "state the signification of, explain what is meant by, describe in detail," from Old French defenir, definir "to finish, conclude, come to an end; bring to an end; define, determine with precision," and directly from Medieval Latin diffinire, definire, from Latin definire "to limit, determine, explain," from de "completely" (see de-) + finire "to bound, limit," from finis "boundary, end" (see finish (v.)). From c. 1400 as "determine, declare, or mark the limit of." Related: Defined; defining.

So, imagine facets unseen, I am at least a meme, a bubble rising on the tide. Think, as you will. Amen?
Incorporating radical (root-related) definitions via cut and paste is my way of acknowledging that I have no ex-uses left for using words in a wrong, thus lying, way.
Terry Collett Jul 2012
It was Friday evening
the time for being weighed
before bath in the nursing home
and Anne was standing

behind you in the queue of kids
leaning on her crutch
the stump of her leg
just visible beneath

her short red skirt
and she whispered to you
how much do you weigh Skinny Kid?
I don’t know

you replied
maybe 84lbs
she snorted 84lbs?
my ***** weighs more than that

she whispered
her warm breath
on your ear
the kids in front of you

moved up and Monica
the girl with burn scars
climbed off
the weighing scales

what do you weigh Scarface?
Anne called out
don’t be cruel Anne
the nurse near the scales said

oops sorry nurse
it just slipped out
Anne said
(so the bishop said

to the actress
Anne whispered
in your ear)
after a few more kids

got on and off
the scales after
being weighed
it was your turn

and you climbed on the scales
and the red line
showed 77lbs
and the nurse said

what it showed
and you got off
and Anne crutched herself
onto the scales

and you stood
and watched
as the red line showed 112lbs
now that

said Anne looking at you
is real poundage
and as she got off the scales
she ushered you outside

into the passageway
and said
here feel my thigh
go on

have a feel
and she grabbed
your hand
and made you

touch her thigh
it was smooth
and warm
you’re such a thin *******

Skinny Kid
you need to fatten yourself up
she released your hand
and you followed her

along to the lounge
where others waited
for bath time
she nibbled

your earlobe affectionately
and crutched herself
over to the armchair
in the corner

and pinched Monica
on her way
giving out
a snort of laughter

as Monica uttered
loud moans
and you sensed
the dampness

on your earlobe
like a loving memento
which you hoped
would last

but knew
it would
like passing time
soon go.
Jamie L Cantore Jun 2015
I gaze upon a tree,
I wonder if the roots
Can hold the weight
Of my burden so heavy.

But you are just a babe,
Says my sensibilities,
What could you weigh?
What could you weigh?

I say, "I am two-years old,
And I hunch, so do not
Be  so sure of my load,
Not so sure of my load."

Ah, but certainly you do
Not think you are too heavy
For such a good tree as this,
Do you my child, well, do you,?

"I am not certain, yes, not certain,"
Said I. "Who made you fella's, and
Do you all weigh more than do I,
This be my reply, and my question."

Well, of course we weigh more,
We be right good sensibilities,
And therefore weigh tons, tons!
And you know, you made we, sure.

Then I say to these,
"Shall I not take ye sensibilities,
Ye heavy-laden sensibilities,  
With me up such a tree?"

Why yes, yes ,of course!
Ha! Ha! He! He!
We see your point,
See your point, of course!
834

Before He comes we weigh the Time!
’Tis Heavy and ’tis Light.
When He depart, an Emptiness
Is the prevailing Freight.
I know things hurt you and weigh down on your soul.
And people have left you and just let you fall.
I know I've been one of them a time or two.
But I swear on my life, I'll be better for you.
I would give you my own heart,
though it may be more torn.
I would find you a rose to hold
without any thorns.
I would read up on jokes and things to make you smile.
And lay on the couch and just listen for awhile.
I would listen to your problems, your dreams, your hopes.
I would listen to your secrets and not let anybody know.
I would give you my whole self,
with both of my hands.
And follow in your footsteps wherever you ran.
We would go on adventures to just forget the world.
Play in the grass, watch the clouds swirl and swirl.
And when the sun finally set,
like the fire in your eyes;
I would be there for you to just let you cry.
Cry about whatever;
but I would hold your hand close.
And tell you I love you and never let you go.
I would lie down beside you whenever you fell;
fight off the demons of your personal hell.
And in the morning I'd hug you as soon as you wake;
and whisper, "Keep smiling. Today's a new day."
Logan Robertson  Jul 2018
Here
Logan Robertson Jul 2018
there's a fisherman down by the sea
sitting on the wharf
watching the sun sink into the western sky
a frown frames his house
he looks out the window
at his pole, gear
and especially that of his net
emptiness
metaphors that weigh on him
uprooting his garden
a garden of no delight
one lonely row of forget me not
and regret
all wilting
his foundation
lost
never found or realized
he pauses
runs his hand over his pole
like a belt without any notches
his grip slipping into the abyss
as the last of the orange
sinks
bleeds also
at where the sea  meets the sky
where his day slowly turns to night
somewhere out there he sees his image
in nature's mirror
at his crossroads
for deeply
and some may say shallowly
he looks onto the sea one last time
and he means what he says
and throws his fishing gear in
tears welling in his eye
as he watches his teddybear sink
lips gurgling
seemingly asking why
... why
he answers back
there were no fish or bites
in his lonely sea
or wind at his back
... there
his window opens wider
the sea not singing or dancing
he sees the ambient light
correlations
... here

Logan Robertson

7/06/2018
If one reads between the lines the poem reads like a eulogy with a
harbinger to come.
Alyssa Underwood Mar 2016
I

He did not wear his scarlet coat,
  For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
  When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
  And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
  In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
  With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
  Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
  A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
  “That fellows got to swing.”

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
  Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
  Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
  My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
  Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
  With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
  And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
  By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

Some **** their love when they are young,
  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame
  On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
  Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
  Into an empty place

He does not sit with silent men
  Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
  And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
  The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
  Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
  The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
  With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
  To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
  Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
******* a watch whose little ticks
  Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not know that sickening thirst
  That sands one’s throat, before
The hangman with his gardener’s gloves
  Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
  That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
  The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul
  Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
  Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
  Through a little roof of glass;
He does not pray with lips of clay
  For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
  The kiss of Caiaphas.


II

Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
  In a suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
  Its raveled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do
  Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
  In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
  And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,
  Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
  Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
  As though it had been wine!

And I and all the souls in pain,
  Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
  A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
  The man who had to swing.

And strange it was to see him pass
  With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
  So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
  Had such a debt to pay.

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
  That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
  With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
  Before it bears its fruit!

The loftiest place is that seat of grace
  For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
  Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer’s collar take
  His last look at the sky?

It is sweet to dance to violins
  When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
  Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
  To dance upon the air!

So with curious eyes and sick surmise
  We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
  Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
  His sightless soul may stray.

At last the dead man walked no more
  Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
  In the black dock’s dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
  In God’s sweet world again.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
  We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
  We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
  But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
  Two outcast men were we:
The world had ****** us from its heart,
  And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
  Had caught us in its snare.


III

In Debtors’ Yard the stones are hard,
  And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
  Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
  For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
  His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
  And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
  Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
  The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
  A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called
  And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
  And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
  No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
  The hangman’s hands were near.

But why he said so strange a thing
  No Warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher’s doom
  Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
  And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
  To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
  Pent up in Murderers’ Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
  Could help a brother’s soul?

With slouch and swing around the ring
  We trod the Fool’s Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
  The Devil’s Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
  Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
  With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
  And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
  And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
  We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
  And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
  Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
  Crawled like a ****-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
  That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
  We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the yellow hole
  Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
  To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
  Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
  On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
  Went shuffling through the gloom
And each man trembled as he crept
  Into his numbered tomb.

That night the empty corridors
  Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
  Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
  White faces seemed to peer.

He lay as one who lies and dreams
  In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watcher watched him as he slept,
  And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
  With a hangman close at hand?

But there is no sleep when men must weep
  Who never yet have wept:
So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave—
  That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
  Another’s terror crept.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
  To feel another’s guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
  Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
  For the blood we had not spilt.

The Warders with their shoes of felt
  Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
  Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
  Who never prayed before.

All through the night we knelt and prayed,
  Mad mourners of a corpse!
The troubled plumes of midnight were
  The plumes upon a hearse:
And bitter wine upon a sponge
  Was the savior of Remorse.

The **** crew, the red **** crew,
  But never came the day:
And crooked shape of Terror crouched,
  In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
  Before us seemed to play.

They glided past, they glided fast,
  Like travelers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
  Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
  The phantoms kept their tryst.

With mop and mow, we saw them go,
  Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
  They trod a saraband:
And the ****** grotesques made arabesques,
  Like the wind upon the sand!

With the pirouettes of marionettes,
  They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
  As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and long they sang,
  For they sang to wake the dead.

“Oho!” they cried, “The world is wide,
  But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
  Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
  In the secret House of Shame.”

No things of air these antics were
  That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
  And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
  Most terrible to see.

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
  Some wheeled in smirking pairs:
With the mincing step of demirep
  Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
  Each helped us at our prayers.

The morning wind began to moan,
  But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
  Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
  Of the Justice of the Sun.

The moaning wind went wandering round
  The weeping prison-wall:
Till like a wheel of turning-steel
  We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
  To have such a seneschal?

At last I saw the shadowed bars
  Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
  That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
  God’s dreadful dawn was red.

At six o’clock we cleaned our cells,
  At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
  The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
  Had entered in to ****.

He did not pass in purple pomp,
  Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
  Are all the gallows’ need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
  To do the secret deed.

We were as men who through a fen
  Of filthy darkness *****:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
  Or give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
  And what was dead was Hope.

For Man’s grim Justice goes its way,
  And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
  It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong,
  The monstrous parricide!

We waited for the stroke of eight:
  Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
  That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
  For the best man and the worst.

We had no other thing to do,
  Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
  Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man’s heart beat thick and quick
  Like a madman on a drum!

With sudden shock the prison-clock
  Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
  Of impotent despair,
Like the sound that frightened marshes hear
  From a ***** in his lair.

And as one sees most fearful things
  In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
  Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman’s snare
  Strangled into a scream.

And all the woe that moved him so
  That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the ****** sweats,
  None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
  More deaths than one must die.


IV

There is no chapel on the day
  On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain’s heart is far too sick,
  Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
  Which none should look upon.

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
  And then they rang the bell,
And the Warders with their jingling keys
  Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
  Each from his separate Hell.

Out into God’s sweet air we went,
  But not in wonted way,
For this man’s face was white with fear,
  And that man’s face was grey,
And I never saw sad men who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw sad men who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  We prisoners called the sky,
And at every careless cloud that passed
  In happy freedom by.

But there were those amongst us all
  Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
  They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived
  Whilst they had killed the dead.

For he who sins a second time
  Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
  And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood
  And makes it bleed in vain!

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
  With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
  The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
  And no man spoke a word.

Silently we went round and round,
  And through each hollow mind
The memory of dreadful things
  Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
  And terror crept behind.

The Warders strutted up and down,
  And kept their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were ***** and span,
  And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at
  By the quicklime on their boots.

For where a grave had opened wide,
  There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
  By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
  That the man should have his pall.

For he has a pall, this wretched man,
  Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
  Naked for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
  Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

And all the while the burning lime
  Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bone by night,
  And the soft flesh by the day,
It eats the flesh and bones by turns,
  But it eats the heart alway.

For three long years they will not sow
  Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
  Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
  With unreproachful stare.

They think a murderer’s heart would taint
  Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God’s kindly earth
  Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but blow more red,
  The white rose whiter blow.

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
  Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
  Christ brings his will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
  Bloomed in the great Pope’s sight?

But neither milk-white rose nor red
  May bloom in prison air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
  Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
  A common man’s despair.

So never will wine-red rose or white,
  Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
  By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who ***** the yard
  That God’s Son died for all.

Yet though the hideous prison-wall
  Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit man not walk by night
  That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may not weep that lies
  In such unholy ground,

He is at peace—this wretched man—
  At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
  Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
  Has neither Sun nor Moon.

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
  They did not even toll
A reguiem that might have brought
  Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
  And hid him in a hole.

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,
  And gave him to the flies;
They mocked the swollen purple throat
  And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
  In which their convict lies.

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
  By his dishonored grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
  That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
  Whom Christ came down to save.

Yet all is well; he has but passed
  To Life’s appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
  Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourner will be outcast men,
  And outcasts always mourn.


V

I know not whether Laws be right,
  Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
  Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
  A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
  That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother’s life,
  And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
  With a most evil fan.

This too I know—and wise it were
  If each could know the same—
That every prison that men build
  Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
  How men their brothers maim.

With bars they blur the gracious moon,
  And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
  For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
  Ever should look upon!

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
  Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
  That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
  And the Warder is Despair

For they starve the little frightened child
  Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
  And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.

Each narrow cell in which we dwell
  Is foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
  Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
  In Humanity’s machine.

The brackish water that we drink
  Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
  Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
  Wild-eyed and cries to Time.

But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
  Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare,
  For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day
  Becomes one’s heart by night.

With midnight always in one’s heart,
  And twilight in one’s cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
  Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
  Than the sound of a brazen bell.

And never a human voice comes near
  To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door
  Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
  With soul and body marred.

And thus we rust Life’s iron chain
  Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
  And some men make no moan:
But God’s eternal Laws are kind
  And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
  In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
  Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean *****’s house
  With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy day they whose hearts can break
  And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
  And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
  May Lord Christ enter in?

And he of the swollen purple throat.
  And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
  The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
  The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
  Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
  His soul of his soul’s strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
  The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
  The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
  And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
  Became Christ’s snow-white seal.


VI

In Reading gaol by Reading town
  There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
  Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
  And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
  In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
  Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
  And so he had to die.

And all men **** the thing they love,
  By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

— The End —