The Poetry of
Jack Scott

Love’s Whipping Boy

Hellos are kinder than goodbyes,
although goodbyes are in them.
The death of couples,
is the closing of the door
between them
from one side
and/or the other.

Half a couple talks
to him or herself
afterwards at first
in an awkward way
just to stay in practice
and hold the void at bay.

Silence is a major god
sometimes at war with solitude,
and winning.
“I loved you”
is sometimes hard to say,
at others, hard to hear.
“Who loved whom?”, the silence asks.

The myths of muteness
lie deep as broken bone,
set without a proper cast,
requiring surgeon
with more skill than rusty time
and tarnished memory
suturing with promises
which tend to come undone,
hobbling one content to walk,
if not dance again.

The persevering heart,
love’s whipping boy
or girl, as the case may be
the softest part of us
this boneless muscle,
as vulnerable as we let it be
to sucker-punch and perfidy
what can be done for it,
against the double brunt
of offended injury?

What salve, what balm
would comfort and relieve it,
not just this time,
but also in the longer later?
To heal it, should one
marinate with love
to ease and soften
or pickle it in brine,
tan into leather,
toughen into shield,
or further harden it
into Sisyphean boulder?

Let’s linger with the heart,
for it has stuck with us,
to comfort if not heal it.
It sorely needs repair,
but can’t afford to rest.
Quiet harmony with self
requires eviction,
time to throw the squatter out
due process has been done,

The volume’s now turned up,
the message is quite clear,
I thought I was receiver,
but am transmitter, too,
donor and donee
of contaminated blood.

Why is it,
when we’re wounded,
shot in the back or heart,
we tend to take the blame
when the shouting’s done
and the silence claims us.

As actor,
must I play all those roles
because I am the playwright
and director,
here on the stage
what have I really been, but target,
for the audience of one?
What is it that I’ve done,
what crime?
What is the punishment,
for crimes
of self on self?

Whatever crime,
I cannot throw the first stone,
I will not hurl the last.
I’ve done the time.
Escape, parole, probation,
when I release myself
I’m free.

L53 ®Copyright 1974 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.