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The Murderer

"I push my boat among the reeds;
I sit and stare about;
Queer slimy things crawl through the weeds,
Put to a sullen rout.
I paddle under cypress trees;
All fearfully I peer
Through oozy channels when the breeze
Comes rustling at my ear.

"The long moss hangs perpetually;
Gray scalps of buried years;
Blue crabs steal out and stare at me,
And seem to gauge my fears;
I start to hear the eel swim by;
I shudder when the crane
Strikes at his prey; I turn to fly,
At drops of sudden rain.

"In every little cry of bird
I hear a tracking shout;
From every sodden leaf that's stirred
I see a face frown out;
My soul shakes when the water rat
Cowed by the blue snake flies;
Black knots from tree holes glimmer at
Me with accusive eyes.

"Through all the murky silence rings
A cry not born of earth;
An endless, deep, unechoing thing
That owns not human birth.
I see no colors in the sky
Save red, as blood is red;
I pray to God to still that cry
From pallid lips and dead.

"One spot in all that stagnant waste
I shun as moles shun light,
And turn my prow to make all haste
To fly before the night.
A poisonous mound hid from the sun,
Where crabs hold revelry;
Where eels and fishes feed upon
The Thing that once was He.

"At night I steal along the shore;
Within my hut I creep;
But awful stars blink through the door,
To hold me from my sleep.
The river gurgles like his throat,
In little choking coves,
And loudly dins that phantom note
From out the awful groves.

"I shout with laughter through the night:
I rage in greatest glee;
My fears all vanish with the light
Oh! splendid nights they be!
I see her weep; she calls his name;
He answers not, nor will;
My soul with joy is all aflame;
I laugh, and laugh, and thrill.

"I count her teardrops as they fall;
I flout my daytime fears;
I mumble thanks to God for all
These gibes and happy jeers.
But, when the warning dawn awakes,
Begins my wandering;
With stealthy strokes through tangled brakes,
A wasted, frightened thing."




O Henry

Short Stories