The Rope
They put a noose in me—a knot, a nook 
for a neck to go through. Not just any neck,
but almost any neck of the woods:
north and south, west and east.
Not just one race, though one race
more than others; not just one supposèd crime, 
though rapists sell more papers than kidnappers, 
union organizers, seditionists, or cattle thieves. 
Not just men, though mostly men. I have held
the breath of women, too, and children,
whose necks are supple, who struggle more, 
who twitch the longest, because they harbor hope.
I nick the quick right out of ’em. I try
to do it swiftly, and I can, if the knot’s made fast.
Sometimes they’re dead—burned, bullet-pricked, 
beaten to death with shovels or with bricks—
before they get to where I’ve been uncoiled:
a cedar, a bridge, a telephone pole. 
Sometimes a crowd takes strands of me 
for souvenirs. In another life of rope, 
I bound saints to the stake. 
Twine wasn’t made for this. I should be baling hay.
I’d rather pull a bucket from a well, 
haul a rowboat to a dock, give an acrobat a path 
across the air. That’s a kinder life for a piece of string.
I’d like to rig a mast up, and hear the sailors sing. 
Take me from this limb, or if you keep me here, 
tie me to an old tire, and let the children swing.
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