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Osiria Melody Feb 14
With nimble hands, the opening of a plastic
bag transpires,
Dire need to consume food, edge of bag rips
A roar of condemnation, sneering at you
Contents of food fly out from its captivity,
Dispersed across the floor like lawn sprinkler
water

With frightened eyes, overcome with the rush
of tears as if they were competing to fall out of
them,
Food stares at you and relishes in its final
moments,
Should I abide by the five-second ru–
A gargantuan foot bears down on food, like one
slamming his foot abruptly on car brakes
Cccrunchhhh, cccrunchhh...

Such a tragedy!
But, by the way, this pair of shoes sure look
better than mine
With nimble hands, you seize the individual by
the neck and–
Sssnapppp, ppopppp...
Dire need to feel remorse, but none embraces
you

With nimble hands, the opening of a plastic bag
transpires,
Don't ever touch my food.
Thank you.



Melody
2/14/19
Don't you hate it when you eat a snack from a plastic bag, open it up, only to witness one of the edges ripping?
CK Baker Jan 2017
In time you’ll recover and absolve
push those scorned impressions aside
hammer down the jaded edges
and sing
that delightful commoners song
the one you sang so well
in what seems a lifetime ago

You really had it you know
that fiery disposition and nimble cunning
those butter chords and derelict style
we could see it -- we could all see it
it was all it took to turn the evening tide
(and rile that buck fever)
heads bashing
tongues lambasting
middle fingers high
and raising Cain on those may fly statesmen

There were no rules
when it came to your survival
no textbook rally or common bond
no structured songbird or bravado stage
you either made it, or laid it
“life by the *****” Mr. Poppy would say
a kaleidoscope of dreams
with rich colored imagery
hardened artisan seams
in a carefully woven motif

But something got lost in the needle point
something sinister and distorted took hold
the quirks and street genius
that were your lifeline
gave way to grunts
and squeals
and chilling night crawlers
the colors faded quickly
to a cold confining grey

There was no grace in the new world
no retribution or switch back
no salvation or accorded finale
only edged platforms of blackened steel
that kept you cased
in a silent vanquished cell
shivering cold with fear
night without day
all in the shadow of death

But time heals all
and the polish sneakers
and open sores are long gone
(though the roman nose and shallow cleft remain)
indeed the falconer beat the widow maker
this go around
and I’m hopeful it won’t happen again
and if it does you’ll see me
standing hand on heart
with that old verse in hand:

he ain’t tainted
or silly,
and most certainly
not forgotten…
he ain’t loony
or fixed,
or a product of his self-doing…
he’s just a straight shootin’ guy,
who had the most of it
figured out
patty m Jan 2018
Through the Looking glass
Alice stands in all her splendor.
Her hair a curtain of silver rain,
her soft skin aglow in subliminal light.

A compelling fever rises
as Thomas tries different ways to pull
her up in memory
while writing himself into the tale.  
Poor Thomas delirious in his dilemma, he knows
this will be no easy seduction.  
How fiercely urgent his desire rises
as he longs to end our heroine's self-imposed abstinence.  

Hot April morning ambush,
and our intruder has beguiled our sweet Alice
with heated kisses sweeter than ripened fruit.  
A wildness stirs in the bloodstream.  
Now he slowly and lovingly explores her pristine body
as she shivers beneath his delicate strokes
until high trills rise to fevered pitch.

Pleated line of sky
muted corners softly come into focus.

Loathe to let her go,
passion stirs in his depths
slowly now he tastes her secrets,  shares her pleasure.

Tight buds of anticipation tenderly plucked,
his fingers find the stem, a measure of moisture;
Nimble fingered harmonies play pleasure symphonies
accompanied by soft echoes of youthful delight  
Warm and breathless, crystal rainbows paint the inside of her eyelids as she grows sleepy in afterglow.

Soon he's torn away, his pale poet's face conveying pain
received from this  now cool disconcerting beauty;
Though he touched folds and frills of every petal,
his chapter is immediately erased and the
original story reappears.  

She may have slipped down the rabbit hole,
but forever ladylike and pure is our sweet Alice.
Grace May 2017
Nimble fingers
Across shoulder blades
Strumming collarbones
The sweetest sound
To touch your ears

Lips made to stitch
Where bumps and bruises
Decorate
Peach thin skin

I bet your body could blush
A deep sunset red
Blanketing my favorite skyline
So picturesque
Even Picasso would hold his breath
George Anthony Jan 2018
i asked her, does it look the same?
she gave me that funny look she gets
whenever i say or do something a little dim
it's a mirror image for a reason she said

in the mirror i see muscles, and strength
hips a little too wide and fleshy
but still muscular,
strength all the way down

but when i reflect on myself,
no mirror necessary
it is never the same

i don't feel as strong as i could
don't look as sharp and sturdy as i could
those fleshy sides, too soft
for a battle-hardened brain
and turbulent thoughts

i need angles, i need straight lines
but there's nothing straight about me
and that's half the problem

and the other half
is that i hate the softness that lingers
but everybody else loves it
and i don't want to be warm and
able to be cuddled

i want hard edges
and nimble, spindly fingers;
when i play my chords
i want my bones to tap the strings

and when sadness sheathes itself within me
i want eyes as dry
as my eczema-bitten hands
it's been a while, huh?
hey, guys, how are ya?
my 2018 has been a rollercoaster already
i finally got an appointment with a clinic i've been emailing for three months, and my granddad died
Marla Apr 6
My first glimpse of
Operatic joy occurred
March 12th of years past.
In their foolishness,
They allowed me a go
At an open vehicle of
Two wheels
that went as fast as I wanted,
Where I wanted,
For however long I wanted.

I would bike away in my dreams
As they mounted assaults in life,
I couldn't help but feel invulnerable
Upon my nimble ride.

Yes O yes,
I still cruise to this day.
My freedom is mine
Forever to behold and make.
zumee Sep 2018
Takes a hit of that Which
Goes a round
Comes a round
squared inside the ring:

:Giggling fist: :connect the dots
lands one on the nimble joke
to Which
a Universe is the punch-line.
Azaria Jul 2018
i can never seem to
remember the important
things
the difference between meiosis and mitosis
the minute differences of
genetic seperation
the independence of
the daughter cells
when they realize that
everyone is going to hurt you
eventually
hurting me like you
forgetting me
like forgetting to pick up
bread, butter, and your favorite-curry
chicken-self-denial
that drips from
the white shelves
when i ask  
if you're in this
for good
was it december 5
or 10th
when i
memorized each fraction of your dna?
the splintered parts of kingston
that created your face
a tropical storm
called: your-mother's-broken-heritage
that resides on the top corner
of your left cheekbone
when you tell me that you
that you weren't made
for this kind of love
what good is remembering
when the thought of you
feels like a cancer  
joke in bad taste
like old-ship-of-zion-church-thoughts-
but only in a crisis
like only remembering how to
talk to god in spite of you
half-*** asking him
like the fine line
of straddling a yes
and maybe
to wipe out
the best parts of you:
the creation of your visceral
sexuality
the way you say mango
on wednesday nights
when you tell me about
the quilted-purple-haired-
grandmother-stories
of your homeland
the scent of you
speaking to me in
your native language
patois in between my legs
english creole when i
ask you if you love me
how come i can remember
all the things i don't want to
when i'm high
displaced-drake-feelings-
of-20-years-circa-2am
all the important things that
don't matter
like remembering all the
irrelevant details of your
face-down-no-sock-wearing-
-nimble-fingered-indecisive-orang­e-
laughter-silouette even on the
darkest of nights
and still having to ask twice
if i was supposed to
pick up the 64 ounce
orange juice
with or without pulp
WW
Works for me
Change to nimble wholemeal
Skimmed milk
And no cheese
No crisps
More bowls of soup for tea
A cake or two
And I am set free.
Old weight watchers. Lost 11 has lf got alergic to cheese certain veg crisps process foods
Terry O'Leary Oct 2014
The spider Queen, aloofly vain!
She rules a silent ruthless reign,
with black-bead eyes like pearls of rain
that damp the depths of her demesne.
          .
                     .
                                .
A spider spins, with nimble feet,
a sticky web of grim deceit
that drapes the corners, dark, discreet,
in catacombs of her retreat.

Her jointed legs (in number, eight)
traverse the threads with stilted gait,
but often more she'll lie in wait
within the hub of her estate.

Shy spiders live their lives alone
ensconced within a silky throne;
unless a transient guest comes flown,
their lives bide empty, monotone.
          .
                     .
Well, now and then, a sullen breeze
may twitch the toils, begin to tease –
yet nothing's caught and nothing pleas,
so patience's bid  at times like these.

But then again, when stars ignite,
may maunder by a gnat, by night,
be taught a dance, a writhing rite,
within a lace of death, wrapped tight.

Sometimes a spider's in the mood
and waits awhile, whilst being wooed –
and then, to later feed her brood,
the widow slays her mate for food.

In time a spider dies, 'tis true,
bequeathing but a residue
entwined, devoid of retinue,
in fibers decked in silver dew.
          .
                     .
                                .
One asks "What purpose serves the GNAT –
to feed and make the spider fat?
Well, 'tis perchance just naught but that
within a mindless habitat.
          .
                     .
"Yet, what's the aim?” you may inquire,
“at the heart of MAN's desire.
To which goals should WE aspire
reaching high and reaching higher?"

We've, through the ages, left the mire,
trundling wheels and taming fire,
doing deeds that must inspire,
nursing needy, calming crier, …

Such things as these, most may admire:
          - placid dove and war defier
            (some are bolder, some are shyer)
          - patience (mess-up mollifier);

          - humankind (Life's justifier)
          - charity (charmed self-denier)
          - tolerance (proud pacifier )
          - love of Life (folk unifier).


What more could we, as flesh, require?
Needless kneeling neath the spire?
Childish chanting in the choir?
Preaching hell's impending pyre?


No, Death's the only rectifier,
comes the instant we expire,
nothing after, sentience prior.

So, treasure Life and don't deny Her.
"if not the gnat,
the gnat is naught..."
ANON

Hmmm... wonder what that means...
Lot May 17
Smoke dances around me,
clouding the room in a mystic breath,
it hangs from my lips like the veil that sits upon a bride’s jewelled head,
it flows through the air with nimble grace only to vanish into space,
ascending to the heavens where I can never reach,
it’s only lasting trace sits heavily beneath my teeth,
a sweet but acrid kiss that escapes in breathless fear,
rotting flowers fill my lungs with their dying drear,
constricting my voice with lasting vice,
till I’m choking up petals of addictive bliss.
Late night thoughts...
Remember the puppet that you were

who thought himself
a real boy
still only just a boy

remember
like perusal of hate mail
        their postal telepathy
as though flipping through cellophane
photo albums of many nameless
faces

distant / detached / races

Remember how you had
not known them then
                 floating on airs
ignorant  / clueless / willful
still constantly fair

like May flowers
in pebbled gardens

Yet this life / its tangled strings
Deep sea of trees
(tug & pulling)
with Geppetto's fermented footing
precariously
curious and nimble

that boy was
quite...
           agreeable to a fault

happy to oblige a fly
Try not to waste in thought

But something else
also had its gravity
(pride for tiger stripes)
taunt tainted trite
there within : an invisible string

to keep true
be mindful
be cool
(nimble thimbles cool)
Indian in steel cupboards
searching but not so...
High times
"you will know when you find it
you perpetual student"

open as pouring rain
always in awe of it
                                  all
dismissive of the drowning
Empty can be pain
barely afloat in city-scapes

Boy refusing to grow up
who's dreams are tall
Inside a lotus
Cup of hands
              Lips waits to open
Brown Eyes
         like quiet ripples
Electric wings
A dragonfly on the pond
in our pebbled gardens.
JAYWalker Apr 2018
Death dangling from nimble fingers
Warmth ephemeral from cold delivered
Murky decisions waft as smoky regrets
Wishing it would burn out with the cigarette.

Another night pass like a stranger on the street
Never looking back, apathetic as it fleets  
Troubled mind tryin' to answer questions born out of fear
Trying to wrap around a conundrum
Afraid of what the truth will bear.
Long time no write.
HTR Stevens Nov 2018
When we grow decrepit and old,
Good health is like a crown of gold.
Youth is young, nimble and bold;
Old age is weak, slow and cold.
Envy not the young when age brings our decline;
We’ve lived it if we live to be ninety-nine!
We have struggled to the top of the hill;
On neither side is the grass greener still.
Life is to be lived, not to look idly on;
Live and learn, school starts on the day we are born!
As we grow, we learn to laugh and play;
‘Tis as certain as night follows day.
When we fall, pick ourselves up again;
Should we stay down in eternal pain?
Winners don’t lose, losers don’t win;
‘Tis a shame both make such a din!
One day we’ll play against ourselves to win;
Will we then be banging on drums of tin?
When all are champions playing on the same side,
Will everyone be happy with equal pride?
When we at last improve all,
Then humankind can walk tall.
We’ll shine as stars in the sky,
Watching boulders drifting by.
Abraham Avalos Aug 2018
Guarded yet free, I am hard to know
Confident yet sensitive, I'm both high & low
Compassionate yet hardhearted, a contradictable male
Humble yet arrogant, disrespect me & I'll unleash hell
Impossible to understand yet so full of glee
Inside my heart hide both peace & plea
Easy to talk to yet hard to catch by
A glinting gem yet still feeling shy
Nervous & nimble, curious & controlled
Taking many risk, living life bold
Intuitive but careless, life is my game
I hold an intellect that is to quick to exclaim
Keep it one hundred I don't like to hear lies
Hey my names Abraham & Im a Gemini  

                                                     - Abraham Avalos
Shreeya Oct 2018
His dull green uniform was stitched into his skin.
When we we tried to remove it,
he screamed and bled-
for it was sewn to his soul.

His eyes were covered
with pages of stories
that we could never read-
for they were written in a language only he understood.

When she held out her hand
for him to grasp,
he jumped-
for her nimble fingers were laced in bullets and dusted in gunpowder.

The fire that once burned with in him
was put out by the tears
of those who were turned to dust
by the thunder that fell from the sky-
for their ashes stained his heart and clouded his lungs.
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 ***;
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 ***,
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 ***,
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!
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