Vol. 16 No. 1 · 6 January 1994

Virtual and Other Realities – 19

Edwin Morgan: The Heart of Midlothian

180 words

He’s killed his father, don’t know it yet but will.
Red hands grip crusts till he has scoffed his fill.
The tight cords hurt his body – not his will.

Bandit, savage, reiver, devil, scum –
he’s saddled with his titles till kingdom come.
To him, useless resentment’s long gone numb.

His eyes pierce through his own darkness; his skin
is windburnt, dirtpocked; black hair thick, face thin,
his frame all sinew and hunger. Lose or win,

his 16 years are ready as a fox
to twist and run; he’s been sold like a box
of tools and will be again; money talks.

He’s unbaptised and nameless; likes that well.
‘Call me the Whistler,’ he says, ‘I’ll go to hell
in my own way, eat the fruit, eat the shell!’

He’s killed his master on the dire plantation,
indentured into brutal detestation,
unholdable in any servile station.

He’s in a tepee now, his logs are sawn.
He mimics the wild beaks and wings of dawn,
an undrawn life worth more than all the drawn.

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