a poem by Kenneth Slessor
I’LL kick your walls to bits, I’ll die scratching a tunnel,
If you’ll give me a wall, if you’ll give me a simple stone,
If you’ll do me the honour of a dungeon—
Anything but this tyranny of sinews.
Lashed with a hundred ropes of nerve and bone
I lie, poor helpless Gulliver,
In a twopenny dock for the want of a penny,
Tied up with stuff too cheap, and strings too many.
One chain is usually sufficient for a cur.
Hair over hair, I pick my cables loose,
But still the ridiculous manacles confine me.
I snap them, swollen with sobbing. What’s the use?
One hair I break, ten thousand hairs entwine me.
Love, hunger, drunkenness, neuralgia, debt,
Cold weather, hot weather, sleep and age—
If I could only unloose their spongy fingers,
I’d have a chance yet, slip through the cage.
But who ever heard of a cage of hairs?
You can’t scrape tunnels in a net.
If you’d give me a chain, if you’d give me honest iron,
If you’d graciously give me a turnkey,
I could break my teeth on a chain, I could bite through metal,
But what can you do with hairs?
For God’s sake, call the hangman.
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