De Profundis: A Ballad


The crowd is called in, to witness the kill;
   drunk and disheveled, bitter and chilled;
he follows them in by an effort of will.

The tiles are cleaned, to be spattered with blood;
   trickles or gushes, geysers or floods;
a yellow-ish light drowns the faces, like mud—

he likes who he is, in this outlaw brigade;
   not a lightweight in the price that he's paid;
he'll fatten up this devil's bargain he's made—

so stands at the edge, and yells with the crowd;
   overly hostile, overly loud;
the victim lies prostrate beneath a white shroud.

It soon gets uncovered, revealing a man
   he thought was another, not from his clan;
but seeing his likeness is more than he'll stand.

And yet he still lingers, as needles are drawn;
   screaming and preening, a circuit turned on;
he wishes he lay there himself, nearly gone—

yellow the light, and more yellow his soul;
    stripped of pretensions, stripped of controls;
he runs for the exit like rats for a hole.

The man was my father, the shrouded quite near;
   hounded by anguish, hounded by fear;
I don't have to wonder what I'm doing here.