John is a contemporary poet who uses the rhyming styles of the classics to discuss current issues.
Inspired by Brenda Arledge: Weekly Word Prompt "Life."
Each week, fellow writer and colleague, Breda Arledge publishes an article giving us all a new word prompt to help inspire our writing. I know it has inspired me, and even when life is busy I somehow find the time to participate.
This particular word "life" sounds easy to write about and going through my past articles I found at least ten with the word in the title or as the subject. I didn't want to rewrite something I had previously published or just repeat what other's had written in their great responses to this challenge.
I am proud of my muse for finally coming up with something a little different (she often thinks outside the box, or in this case - inside) and the resulting poem is: The Ode of a Natural Life.
Thank you once again Brenda for your support and inspiration offered to other writers.
The Ode of a Natural Life
They say that I’ll be in here awhile—the term of my natural life—
Of course, I will plead for their mercy, to return home to my sweet wife.
This ode is for those who were foolish, for I am an innocent man.
Found in the wrong place at the wrong time—and now I am stuck in this can.
The gaol where the inane are shafted; Hell’s school where the witless are taught;
For the skilled thief is rarely captured and the big fish rarely is caught.
An ode for the scoundrel's victim, the brunt of convenient blame,
An ode for the man ruined by the lie— it’s heart-breaking, one and the same.
An ode of the suspected persons, where evidence is beyond doubt.
And of persons beyond suspicion—the real criminals who have clout.
It’s an ode of the prison warders, affectionately called “the screws”—
Men whose morals are “beyond reproach,” unless worth their while to abuse.
They announce their presence so subtly. By the screw of their keys in the door.
Everyone’s screwed and guilty as charged until they are pardoned for sure.
I write this on Government paper, prison logo at the top right,
With the stump of a worn-down pencil, I pen this ode into the night.
My best friend here’s a decent fellow, he’s another who’s in for life;
But he admits to the crime as charged—he sliced up a pimp with a knife.
He is a jolly, good-natured chap, so truthful you would not believe.
His nickname in prison, “The Ripper”— his real Christian name is just Steve.
What nobody knows will not hurt them, and all of the warders are blind,
In the prison chapel each Sunday—we sit in the front and behind
And bargain for packs of tobacco, under the Lord’s cover of prayer—
And the clueless Anglican chaplain is the only innocent there.
Consequences, if found out, we know—we’ll be in confinement if caught,
Fifteen long hours with nothing to eat, except plenty of food for thought.
Tossed in a cell in the dark alone, left to brood in the gloom and the cold,
On the crooks that I should have cheated, and the lies I wish I had told.
On the money that could release me, that I lent to many a friend,
And the naive generous action that I suffered for in the end.
Framed for murder I didn’t commit—of someone I don’t even know.
Evidence planted, no alibi. My innocence just mine to know.
I think of my home in the suburbs, the yard with its white picket fence,
And the shed in back of the garden—the scene of the alleged offence;
The gossip, the judging, the lying; the place where a flat grave was found—
The weight of my neighbourhood crushing, and forcing me down to the ground.
Pallid daylight approaches slowly, replacing the fluorescent light
That printed the bars of the window on the wall of my cell all night
The darkness has gone into hiding, it leaves me exposed to the day—
As I think about my wife and friends, dealing with the shit others say.
We rise at six when the siren sounds, and roll up our blankets and sheets.
Then we pace the cell until seven, brain-dead, and with staggering feet.
Bolts clank and the iron doors spring open, and windows up high let in light—
And we’re greeted by passionless screws— yelling, “Outside! Quick march! Left,
Down the steep and polished-steel staircase, we stumble with no time to dwell,
Like the hallowed stairs of our last days, we have been herded down to Hell;
We complete the morning jobs assigned, thoughts of outside invade our heads,
And we take to the cells our breakfast of cold grits, gravy, and stale bread.
I go through my day in a stupor, pining for my wife’s home cook meals.
The exercise yard gives some relief—I still can’t believe this is real.
I met my lawyer later that day, he told me he’d lodged my appeal.
The waiting game begins once again, I’m just asking for a fair deal.
So this ode’s for those innocent souls, who sat before juries unjust,
Who said, “This man’s guilt can’t be denied—it’s certain for in God we trust.”
“Life is worth living,” or so I’ve heard, but this is not really a life.
The Bible says, “You reap what you sow,” but what did I do for such strife?
My natural life is all I ask—for another I took a fall.
I call on the wielders of justice, I pray that you answer my call.
Clear prejudice, hatred, and judgement— is seen through the bars in a wall,
As we see the uncaught sinners—and God have mercy on all.
(inspired by Henry Lawson, The Song of a Prison 1909)
© 2021 John Hansen