68: The Line-Up

February 27, 2019 · 5:00
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The Line-Up
by Joan Swift

Each prisoner is so sad in the glare
I want to be his mother

tell him the white light will go down
and he will sleep soon.

no need to turn under eyes
to shuffle    poor soldiers  boys

in a play
to wear numbers    obey.

They have hands as limp as wet leaves
the long fingers of their lives

hanging. They cannot see
past the sharp edge nor hear me

breathe. O I would tell each one
he will wake small again

in some utterly new place
Trees without bars    sun a sweet juice

a green
field full of pardon.

The walls come in. I am
captured like him

locked in this world forever   un-
able to say   run

be free
I love you

having to accuse
and accuse.

“The Line-Up,” from STRONG MEASURES. Copyright © 1985 by Joan Swift. Used by permission of Pearson.