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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    There has been much shuffling of feet
    among the men at the meeting
    in the Grange Hall tonight.  Pete Ross
    assures them all: John will be right
    along, they will get the job done --
    "Put the fear of God in this here Fed,"
    as one of them puts it -- and be gone.
    "Shouldn't each man have a gun?," queries Ned.
    Pete:  "Nope.  Pa says the best barrister
    is a big stick.  It speaks loudest
    in the long run."  The banister,
    and its stair, creak: John has to rest
    as he wheezes his way up one,
    gripping the other.  Hearing it, Pete speeds
    to the landing to unburden him
    and bring back the last of their needs.
    The burlap sack gets untied, the bats
    get passed out, somehow; but the attack
    isn't planned -- rush is too quick for that
    and John's standing has sunk ("Lost my knack")
    far enough that they'd not hear him shout
    commands if he did, so he won't.
    What they done (what they did) for a tease
    after a night of too much drinking
    haunts everyone.  People bent on pleasing
    the squid of human hate (which is slinking
    unhindered in your gut too this moment);
    when they are (when they do) and bring a rope,
    then to taunt alone is not their souls' intent,
    and their jibes -- like: "Call us 'Boss,' Joe,
    the way darkies down south do" -- will grope
    their way to anger, and anger churn to rage,
    hope for thought will flee,
    and the squid escape its cage.
    Again, those bars are being rattled slow.
    Pete hopes this time it doesn't come to blows.
    He prays that it will end tonight,
    says, "Let them avenge the old ghosts
    let them relive their glory days.
    Just make this last note a mere boast
    that won't be left for me to play."
    His future is herding cattle
    on a company ranch.  Why fight
    the lost battles, staunch to a fault?
    Why try to settle the old scores?
    The men reach the stables, nod to the cause
    that Pete finds such a bore,
    then they all take saddles, pause,
    and ride the night once more.

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