Fall 1947 • Vol. IX No. 4 PoetryOctober 1, 1947 |

The Child of Courts

After the door shuts, and the footsteps die, I call out, "Mother?" No one answers. I chafe my numb feet with my quaking hands And hunch beneath the covers, in my curled Red ball of darkness; but the floor creaks, someone stirs In the other darkness — and the hairs all rise Along my neck, I whisper: "It is he!" I hear him breathing slowly, as he bends Above me; and I pull my eyes Back into me, and shrink up like the rabbit They gave me when he — Then he waits, I wait. I hear his fingers rasping, like five paws, Up through the dirt, until I cannot breathe But inch my cold hand out to his cold hand: Nothing, nothing! I throw off the furs And sit up shaking; but the starlight bars A vague window, in the vacant dark The sentry calls out something, like a song. I start to weep because — because there are no ghosts; A man dies like a rabbit, for a use. What will they, pay me, when I die, to die?

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Randall Jarrell was a poet, critic, and literary essayist. From 1937 to 1939 he taught at Kenyon College, where he met John Crowe Ransom and Robert Lowell.

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After the door shuts, and the footsteps die, I call out, "Mother?" No one answers. I chafe my numb feet with my quaking hands And hunch beneath the covers, in […]

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