Crime and Punishment
close the book on Crime and Punishment
think of you, my friend, the gifted student,
switched your major, once at M.I.T.,
history, then anthropology—
half the catalogue in seven years,
in, then out of school, grinding your gears.
Raskolnikov, your plight became
a joke between us. Now that name
me how the spiralling depression
dragged you from confusion to confession
For fourteen years of hard time
stalked through Boston, but your only crime
killing your own future, spinning wheels
Cambridge to the Back Bay's cobbled hills
a taxi—or on all-night walks
the back streets, where, for several blocks,
fled, one cold night, pounding the cement
stop sign, parked car, light, and tenement,
steadily behind, a shadow gained,
a pistol. When at last you turned
face your nemesis, you met no double,
a common thief, who cursed you for your trouble,
your wallet with, "What is this shit?
some gaddamned IDs—go on, then, keep it,"
tossing back your life.
So what's your crime?
spins you down the sidewalk like a dime
wobbling . . . always just off-center
autumn passes and approaching winter
Boston your Siberia, your fate
tragedy you lived to recreate
me each summer, turning your life to art,
I, who should have been your counterpart,
both at a safe distance, and now write
you said then with such criminal delight.
Another Kind of Travel, The University of
© 1988. Reprinted by permission of the author.