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  • Writer's pictureErrol Rubenstein


Huddle in hallway corners

To discuss false claims and accusations levelled against you;

When the metal jaws clamp down

And your flag of freedom hangs limp in the dead breeze

And your means to sustenance is endangered

And your gainful employment is menaced by their intimations,

And they secretly plan your prospective failure and dismissal—

Then fear sets in

And your teeth begin to chatter like hammering hail.

And your body begins to shake like thin branches in whipping winds.

And illness enters in and sickens your internal organs.

And you sleep on a bed of nails.

And you walk on glowing coals

And wait on tenterhooks

For the axe to fall.

And they hold secret meetings

To which you are not invited.

And their doors are barred to you.

And you walk the halls in ignorance,

Casting glances before and behind you

To see if anyone is following,

To see if they are watching.

And you will never know, will never know

That they have been observing you,

For they have put wires under your bed

And have been listening to your every word;

They have been transcribing your every utterance,

Recording your every thought.

So, when they finally bring you before them

Do not be afraid:

And answer them with candor and without shame.

Tell them of your troubles and your struggles,

Of times in your life when you were without a friend,

And your loneliness enveloped you like a black cloak shutting out all the light that was yours,

Of times in your life when there was no one to turn to,

And your fears rose up like titanic mountain ranges bursting from the earth’s surface,

And those who loved you and whom you loved were miles away and beyond your reach.

Tell them of your journey from darkness into light,

Of the slow progress of years when the toil of rebuilding your life

Took every ounce of strength and energy you had,

Of the days that passed when you felt you could not go on,

When the pain in your body was real, and when the pain in your mind no less real.

Tell them that you make your way every day without complaint.

That the burdens you carry with you are yours and yours alone,

And that your obedience is unwavering.

Tell them that your pain is borne in silence.

And in your honesty

You will find they have nothing to say to you;

You will find they will return your words with blank faces

And open mouths.

Published in the Red River Review 2019

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