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July 6, 1535: London


This poem first ran in the Fall 2008 edition of “Grub Street Grackle.” It appears here online for the first time.

Then the axe fell.
And the weight of the crowd immeasurably shifted.
The soul of the quiet man no longer drew
their eyes—whether miserable or indignant—
to some convergence on the little scaffold.
Some turned uncomfortably to their neighbor,
but felt, instead of the easy word or glance,
a hollowness about the throat,
and read upon each other’s face
the raw expression of a vacillating expectation
suddenly and forever obsolete.

This was not how a criminal dies,
a rebel, or a hero, or a saint,
but more how a son can be robbed
of his dear inheritance, by a litigation,
folded, creased, and stamped
on foolscap’s whisper-thin translucence.
The gathering climax indefinitely now
postponed, they drifted home.

Those who knew him though had learned to live
forbearing with his quiet way.
They took his painful invitation,
focused wills and energy upon that blank
between the lines of red and black,
that difficult and hidden thing that holds
the phrases of the daily psalter to the page;
that held the good man upright on the day
that God obscured the glory of his face.

Original bio from the Fall 2006 edition:

Adam Cooper has no problem standing in a long line only to leave when he gets to the front. He is an expert at that.

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The Grackle is a production of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Imagine Dallas Literary Arts, Inc.