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The Ode of a Natural Life

John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.

Human Rights: Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Human Rights: Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

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.

Folsom Prison: Image by Jim Olah from Pixabay

Folsom Prison: Image by Jim Olah from Pixabay

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.


Photo by Sinitta Leunen from Pexels

Photo by Sinitta Leunen from Pexels

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,

right!”


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.


Jail Dublin Hall: Image by jraffin from Pixabay

Jail Dublin Hall: Image by jraffin from Pixabay

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)

God Have Mercy: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

God Have Mercy: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

© 2021 John Hansen

Comments

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 24, 2021:

Wow, Mary. I am glad you found this to be realistic and could imagine yourself in the hero’s shoes.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 24, 2021:

As if I was there in prison, when I read your poem. It's so realistic that I went through the experience.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 22, 2021:

Thank you, Linda. I appreciate that. I am happy the story was an appealing one.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 22, 2021:

You’ve told a very sad story in your poem, and you’ve told it well. It’s a great response to Brenda’s challenge.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 22, 2021:

Nithya, there is a lot of injustice in the word and people being wrongly incarcerated is one of them. Thank you for reading.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on April 22, 2021:

Life can be unfair, it is sad that the innocent are framed for no fault of theirs. You have crafted the story so well through your poem. Brilliant!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

What can I say, Moondot. Yes, sometimes the rhyme can be a challenge but it is one I enjoy. I appreciate your generous words.

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 21, 2021:

You manage to go above and beyond for every piece of work that you do. Great work!

Your intelligence can be gauged from your work. It is not that easy to create such a poem with rhyming words. Keep up the good work.

Stay blessed!

Urwa from East County & Cooking and Baking Expert on April 21, 2021:

Most welcome Jonh

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Hi Urwa, thank you for reading this ode. I am glad I was able to convey the emotions of the innocent man in prison. Cheers.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Thank you, Vidya. I could get used to that word “masterpiece” lol. I am glad my efforts brought this story to life, and that you enjoyed it. Much appreciated.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Brenda, see how your words can inspire? You really awakened my sleeping muse with this one. Now how will I control her haha?

Australian poets and storytellers Henry Lawson and AB Banjo Paterson have really inspired a lot of my work. Thank you again.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Oh Peace, thank you for your generous words. Blessings.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Lorna, I wanted this to feel like a ballad and maybe I should have called it “A Ballad of a Natural Life.” Yes, Ned Kelly certainly comes to mind, and the connection to our two countries there. Thank you.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Bill, I almost wasn’t going to do this word challenge because I didn’t think I could come up with anything special, but at the last minute....

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Thank you so much Fran. Much appreciated.

Urwa from East County & Cooking and Baking Expert on April 21, 2021:

This is outstanding John, This ode is packed with the emotions of a man behind the prison walls. Well done Goodman John :-) and thanks for sharing this wonderful open with us.

VIDYA D SAGAR on April 21, 2021:

Hi John,

A masterpiece, very inspiring. You have brought out the emotions of an innocent man in prison yearning for normal life, so well. Your muse seems to have worked really hard on this one John. Excellent work.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on April 21, 2021:

John,

Your muse certainly woke up & took you on a journey for this one.

It is absolutely amazing!

Your words describe the feelings of on an innocent man behind bars for life for a crime he didn't commit.

I didn't see this one coming from your muse, but I'm sure glad it did.

You show us inspiration can come from many forms with this poetic work "inspired by Henry Lawson, The Song of a Prison 1909)."

Excellent work.

I hope your muse stays around for awhile.

I will post a link in the article.

Peace Tobe Dike from Delta State, Nigeria. on April 21, 2021:

This was such a good read! A masterpiece...well done!

Lorna Lamon on April 21, 2021:

A wonderful poem John with the feel of a ballad. I was caught up the dialog from beginning to end. It made me think of Ned Kelly and the quote "Such is Life". Loved it.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on April 21, 2021:

John, this is absolutely amazing. Well done. You took a simple word and turned it into a masterpiece.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on April 21, 2021:

Jodah, I can't possibly improve on any of the comments. WELL DONE! Thank you for your ode, it was beautifil.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 21, 2021:

You have every right to be proud of this, John. It's plain that you spent time carefully composing and choosing each word, each nuance and each blend, just like the perfect recipe. And look at the response! It speaks for itself.

Ann

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Hi Pamela, thank you for reading this poem, and also for your encouraging comment. My muse is quite erratic but sometimes even surprises me with a piece of superior quality.

Yes, there are too many innocent people behind bars and some have even sadly faced the death penalty.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Thank you, Bill. I agree this is one of my best poems, probably ever. I wish my muse would ensure I keep up this standard but I have my doubts. Anyway, I am happy you found this a pleasure to read.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Peg, I have read so many instances recently of people who have been incarcerated for years, having their convictions overturned due to new evidence or stuff ups by the police when first charged. It makes you wonder how many were wrongly convicted. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 21, 2021:

John, your muse really gave you an amazing poem. It is uniquely different, and I really like it. This is a wonderful rsponse to Brenda's prompt.

I think of those innocent souls behind bars as we know it happens sometimes. I think you covered so many aspects of being incarcerated. Well done!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 21, 2021:

Out of nowhere comes, arguably, your best work in a long, long time. This was a pure pleasure to read, my friend. Let's hope your muse guides you on many such creative and inspired trips in the future.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2021:

This is a powerfully written piece about those innocent people who find themselves incarcerated for another person's crime. You have outdone yourself with this brilliant piece of writing. To read it as a poem is even more amazing.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Ann, it is pieces like this that I am proud of writing. It takes a lot of time etc but is worth it in the end. To get the syllable count perfect isn't easy but it is a fun challenge and then hopefully get the storyline to fall into place. Thank you for the generous comment.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 21, 2021:

This is inspired and inspiring, John. You've done such a good job at penning these verses, the flow is perfect and the rhymes well chosen.

I agree with Dora that this is the best response yet. You've captured the despair and yearning. I just hope the appeal works or someone bothers to find the real killer!

Brilliant!

Keep safe and well, John.

Ann

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Hi Devika, I really did give this my best. Thank you for appreciating it.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Hello Chitrangada. I appreciate your generous words. This was a challenge I enjoyed immensely although I found it difficult to start with. It is disturbing how many wrongly accused and languishing in prison, and this ode is to them.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 21, 2021:

Hi Jodah A remarkable poem indeed! You made sure to give us your best on this challenge.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on April 21, 2021:

This is outstanding, John!

How thoughtful of you, to have written this heartfelt piece, for such persons, about whom, the society rarely thinks. Sometimes, they can be the victim of circumstances. Life is obviously not fair to them.

Beautiful response to the word prompt challenge. Thank you for sharing.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Oh, MsDora, what can I say? I was stumped for quite a while and searching for inspiration to respond to the "life" challenge. Then I had a lightbulb moment and this was the result. I appreciate your most generous comment.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 21, 2021:

This is the most impressive response to the life prompt that I have read. And you didn't even write it for you, but for innocent souls who have been robbed of a natural life. It is insightful, deep and should become a road march. Absolutely excellent!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Thank you for reading and commenting, Ravi. No, this certainly isn't one for the faint-hearted. Glad you enjoyed the poem.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on April 21, 2021:

Misbah, thank you for reading this. Glad you liked my different take on "Life." Sorry to give you goosebumps. Blessings.

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on April 21, 2021:

This is stupendous and it brought some agonizing visuals in front of my eyes. Yes this ode is not for the faint-hearted but is packed with emotions of a man behind the prison walls. Thanks for sharing John.

Misbah from The Planet Earth on April 21, 2021:

May God have mercy on all, Ameen! I got goosebumps while reading it. A life behind bars and without having justice is not a life. I like the verse you quoted from bible, “You reap what you sow,” but what did I do for such strife? Thanks for writing this piece

John, This is a wonderful response to Brenda’s prompt. You nailed it. Much appreciated

Blessings and Peace

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