What byways led you from life,
Citizen of a noonday Empire
Your home a gentle county of green
And beyond the roll of downs, the wild blue sea?
The patriarch, whose fatal temper only luck spared you,
The brain fever that took your sister,
That shut away your cousin thrice or more?
You yourself so respectable as to appear
In hat, waist-coated, cuffed, the lawman’s clerk.
Perhaps you feared that all could fall away, like clothes.
This small, quiet place whose lanes you daily walked
Where – you said – you were wont to spend your coin on strangers’ children
But your generous fame hadn’t spread so far.
Your guarded hours, you wrote and copied;
Messages taken, errands run.
Deserving, but a poor prospect withal.
Maybe of all men’s you were never your own.
By chance you were here that late August day
When it came to you: your whole life long
Scratching for pennies, nib to paper
And your love denied
(She had almost sent you under, once)
When suddenly you were not alone –
Beyond your will, then.
Pert and pretty, palmed your money and would not,
Not even walk with you, this bold pauper’s child.
The scent of hops
Hardly a breeze
Rage. Resentment? A moment’s power.
Her crying drowned your last dry threads of reason.
“Without consideration why,” you struck.
Bound for hell, did you linger in your victory,
Or was it mere expedience:
What respectable creature (you) would be so savage?
You said you could have passed for butcher
Yet you denied cleaving, disjointing, flinging away.
Only her blood and your journal found you out.
Was it then just railing at your lot
That bade you write: “24th – killed a girl. It was fine and hot.”