Every day the boots fall like hammers on the steps.
Twice daily, if I am lucky,
There follows the clack of a gruel-filled tin plate
Sliding through the blinking grate.
If I am unlucky, someone upstairs is curious.
Come along, give us some answers.
Elsewhere, doors open and shut, shuffling feet between two pairs of goosesteppers,
A steady stream of clowns, comedians, poets and hacks.
They come, they go.
In between, they wait.
I am told, by the taps on the drainpipe, that some of you have waited.
Six years! Twelve years! Sixty-five, even!
Waiting, with the dank water rotting your shoes, the soles of your feet,
As the puffed-up brayers watch their tanks parade through the square.
I have waited as well, through three-quarters of a century,
Watching the gray walls harshly until I can bore right through them,
And force a sunset to curl into this tight room
To turn my bones from white to red.
They killed me a thousand times,
With vermin, with disease, with fists, knives, and a lonely bullet.
They killed me with my best friends,
Whispering beside me while writing down my words.
Words that should dart through the reeds like a dragonfly!
Instead, pinned and broken, ruined by thick tongues.
Today, though, I heard the tanks growl and cough, and then stop.
I heard the fat boots fleeing down the corridors.
I heard the doors swinging open, and hesitant steps
Turned into a sibilant ballet.
And I heard this door creak and open, and saw a thousand motes
Dancing in the shaft of an unseen light.
I saw the hands, hard and rough, bruised and bloody,
Waving toward me like clouds.
Come out! Come up! Something glorious is happening!
And the tattered rags of a thousand waifs
Billow behind them like flags as they rush to the surface,
Scattering their glee.
I shuffle my clicking bones to the bottom of the steps,
And my upward gaze dissolves in the promise of the September sky.