W. K.’s Figure with the Moulting Beard
(Many of the words and images here are stolen from Weldon Kees’s poem of the same name.)
That figure with the moulting beard,
He keeps on showing up in places.
It’s scary and a little weird
To see his face in rows of faces
And wonder if I knew him once, and if
I do, is he alive, or just a stiff,
The ghost of a mistake I made
Way back when I was starting out
At what has always been my trade,
Exiting bastards up the spout,
Bastards like him now showing up to bust me.
They mostly had it coming big time, trust me.
There’s stuff you’d never tell the wife:
The torch, the poison and the nails,
The lead pipe and the Stanley knife,
The ears arriving through the mails,
The black rain swishing on deserted roads,
The Albanian letter package that explodes,
A street, an empty house, a door,
Downtown Los Angeles perhaps,
Or Brooklyn Heights or Wichita,
And suddenly your whole world snaps,
Because it’s him. The fear begins to grow.
It’s him, and it’s the last thing that you know.
The Kingdom of Winter
(The penultimate line is lifted from a poem of Walter de la Mare.)
Bring forth the fruits of treason.
Show us the ends of crime.
Let the prisoners now be brought
Fettered and manacled into court.
Justice is now in season.
This is the payback time.
Extirpate the cancer.
Sharpen the surgeons’ knives.
Open and shut is the state of the case.
Guilt is written on every face.
How can the wretches answer
Other than with their lives?
Clear every square in the city.
Put the extremists to flight.
Ours is a mission to purge and cleanse,
To flush them out from their holes and dens.
This is no place for pity;
Ours is the rule of right.
Safe from the hurly-burly,
Freedom is come again.
Abracadabra and riddle-me-ree:
Many there be do not wish to be free.
Winter is fallen early,
A frost in the hearts of men.