My Jailer, Myself

I am my jailer
My prison, myself.
These walls I've raised too high to climb.
These chains I skillfully forged with time
Now hold me shackled to the ground.

Poring over fearful lore, seeking the source of my succor.
Thunder, darkness, flames, and trumpets.
Quiet sylvan interludes alone by the river
Weeping, tears carried away by the swift running water
Into the stern and solemn ocean, wrathful,
Envious of the over-world with its mighty peaks of splendor.

Would that next to me a bright-eyed maid would dwell,
That hand in hand, the river we'd cross
And stroll into the meadows beyond.
But the eyes of beggars greet me instead,
Dirty, unshaven, weather-worn wretches who bid me
Stop and give alms on the muddy road
Where the weary trod lovelessly on to meet their dark destiny.
These are the men who shall inherit the earth,
Grey old men, sickly and frail, choking on the tears
Of lost youth and wasted years,
A worn-out cog in a rusting wheel,
A cob from which the corn has been devoured,
Discarded to rot beneath the leaves of autumn twilight.

But if I dared, I'd toss back my head
And laugh at all woe.
To Hell with fear and caution
For we are but marked to die!
So burn thee brighter, brighter still.
Exult in the flames of your immolation,
A thousand lives to live today,
Tomorrow only darkness, pale and leering.

But my jailer, myself, a craven creature,
Awaits the end of an indefinite sentence
Chafing, counting seconds, fearing tomorrow,
But not alone, my cell-block's filled;
Cell after cell to span the earth
For men and women of all stations,
All races, and from all nations
Who hide themselves behind the walls
They build from fear and broken dreams,
And wear the irons forged of doubt and sloth.

A chorus of cries resounds upon the wind,
While still the birds sing in merry disdain,
Indifferent to the curse of the king of beasts
Who, in desire to build his towers,
Has learned instead to build his dungeons
And entomb himself within, alone
Far from the light into which he was born.

George Chadderdon © 1992