In Sleepy Towns – Poem

Alas, so much of my writing time of late has been taken up in my detailed chronicles of my Italian adventures for my Rome blog, or else in actually having these adventures. I’ve been working on my novels some, but with very full days, most of my energy goes to my meticulous descriptions of each day. However, I did, inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Cry of the Children” as read in my Brit Lit class, pen this poem on the train to Florence. It’s just a first draft, and I’ll post a better version once it’s edited, but I will post it here. It might be interesting to see its progression.

In sleepy town on quiet streets
Are swings the wind pumps to and fro
And dirty mitts and baseball bats
Left rainwashed sunbleached in a row.
But where the ghosts to haunt these stones?
To graves indoors they steal the sounds
Of ghastly hum and dying moan.

In plastic soil they dig their trench
To practice their peculiar sin:
That in their world so taught to flinch
From stranger, ally, kith, and kin.
By tutors, taught to self-rely
And distance keep from friends who pry
They fashion perfect graves within.

Though friends they claim, or feign as such,
And lovers doting to their whim
They earn these through not smile or touch
Or playground games and jumprope rhymes
But courtship they conduct in walls
Their voice and face in well-stocked cells
To face the world on their own time.

But “face” falls short to name the life
They own; too delicate and dear
Their parents say, for earthly strife.
Much better close to keep them here
Where words on screens their bones can’t break
And failure grind their wishes weak
For safety’s price they must learn fear.

For men strike down these tender souls
With murder, rape, and notions sick
And new. Some children raze in brawls
The pure, or teach them hellions’ tricks.
With structured play, they cannot learn
The habits that will bid them burn
Or cut their spirit to the quick.

In clean white houses on white lanes
These clean white children own the world
With blinking boxes, high-def screens
They flirt and fight and safe unfold
The games and places obsolete
For what reality can compete
When packed perfection’s cheaply sold?

Who suffers if a boy of five
Can fly on screen but loathes to run?
Or girls share secrets, songs, and smiles
In type, but face-to-face speak none?
No limit on who they can be
They’ll craft themselves a self or three
Why stop pretending if it’s fun?

For friends you touch can see your worst.
Identity demands such strain.
When ten at once you can converse
Why talk in person, one friend gain?
Just try the lot. For each a new
Persona; if these friends wear through
Just shut them off and choose again.

And outside play? Forget the thought.
It’s dirty, tiresome, tooth and nail.
Experiences can be bought
On-screen your wishes cannot fail
In half an hour traverse the globe
Don’t leave your polished room to probe
The blackened streets beyond your pale.

For caveat, think on but one,
That if these youths the world address
With Earth to hold they’ll know it none.
With thirty selves, all are repressed.
Small wonder that they lonely brood
Or raise their guns and spill their blood
When faced each day with facelessness.

One thought on “In Sleepy Towns – Poem

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