To stop the wheels of state, I made
My life a kind of counter friction
And went to jail, my tax unpaid,
Until a friend with less conviction
Paid so its cogs might turn again
To spit me out. And as I stood
Behind those four thick walls of stone,
That heavy door of iron and wood,
I saw how states and institutions
Must be half-witted, thinking men
Are merely flesh and blood and bones
To be locked up at their discretion.
The night I spent in jail was novel
And interesting enough: My cell
Was clean and neat on my arrival—
It might have been a small hotel
The way the inmates leaned to chat
In doorways till the lockup call.
Once learning where to hang my hat,
I took my station at the wall
And gazed out through its grille, as pages
Of history seemed to waft my town
Backward to the Middle Ages,
Turning our Concord to the Rhine.
Next morning, through an oblong slot,
They passed our meal—brown hunks of bread
And steaming pints of chocolate --
And after having breakfasted,
My roommate, who spent mornings haying
In neighboring fields each day till noon,
Bade me good-bye and parted, saying
He doubted we'd be meeting soon.
Let out myself, I then proceeded
Across the street to fetch the shoe
I'd left to mend, then unimpeded
Strolled slowly down an avenue
And past the square and when last seen
On top a hill two miles from town,
Was lost in huckleberrying,
My conscience clear, my duty done.
From Walking Backward, Story Line Press, © 1999.
b y permission of the author and