arms and the man
arms and the man

Susan Lynch Jonathan Wrather

When I try to see the writer
I see his cuffs: white - hard - harsh
Two hands stretch from a hole in ice
Or are they handcuffs and the collar leaves
A hangman's mark?
The generation wore the while and grey or black
Of prisoners
All his life he wrote in prisons
And there he saw in the white window of his cell
The map of humankind
But others wore their manacles as honourable wages
And loved the streets - even the dust they trod
And whores and housewives cheered
Men marched to Mills bombs and the Gattling guns
Modern machines in medieval armour
And skeletons using bones as flails
To thresh the young seed on the threshing floor
The husks were winnowed by the blasts of war
And baked bread for the dead

On this day in a shuttered room in Paris
Frank Wedekind stood before
A naked man and naked woman
The grunts and groans of twisting bodies
Only the woman's shoulders
Shone white in the dork room
Till suddenly a trembling waiter sprang
Turned up the taps
And in the gaslights' glare
The playwright saw the act of love
Accomplished on the floor
That in that place served for a bed
Because he knew that all desire
to see the moment they are made
It is the amulet against the wind reeds wear
And that we do not own the tears we shed
But strangers use our eyes to weep in
And he said
Let there be light!

copyright 2004