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The Subterranean Brotherhood

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(1914)



FOOTFALLS



In the cell over mine at night

A step goes to and fro

From barred door to iron wall--

From wall to door I hear it go,

Four paces, heavy and slow,

In the heart of the sleeping jail:

And the goad that drives, I know!


I never saw his face or heard him speak;

He may be Dutchman, Dago, Yankee, Greek;

But the language of that prisoned step

Too well I know!


Unknown brother of the remorseless bars,

Pent in your cage from earth and sky and stars,

The hunger for lost life that goads you so,

I also know!


Hour by hour, in the cell overhead,

Four footfalls, to and fro

'Twixt iron wall and barred door--

Back and forth I hear them go--

Four footfalls come and go!

I wake and listen in the night:

Brother, I know!


(Written in Atlanta Penitentiary,--May, 1913.)


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