On Formal Slavery (to a Nation of Free Verse)

For there are those that call us slaves.  How poor
and simple we must be to cling to ties
that stretch us, bend our purpled backs before
some ruthless lash and ask for more.  A slight
psychotic tendency, a dream of youth,
and we persist with fingers jammed inside
our ageless ears.  We toil above reproof.
Indentured servants, maybe, to masters high
above the clouds.  We bow to Milton, Donne
and Williams S. and feel their lips upon
our fingertips.  And when our labor’s done,
Petrarchan angels bathe our wounds with bronzed
Italian tears.  For we work best restrained,
and by the wisest hands have we been trained.



The last of them a lion, roar so rough
to shake a forest, gingham commuter
in braids.  Dispatch a harlequin that’s stuffed
with straw and hay, stoic pewter suitor,
with just a paw but cowers at a girl
who bumps him on the nose? And had he not,
what then?  Which witch, in pink or pitch, in curls
or jade redeems, destroys her lucky lot
that’s let to run away? She’d have to stay
in darkest dungeons with monkey minions
never know her strength to wash that witch away.
A deigned defeat bequeaths dominion.
His cowardice, a role he has to play
to show a lionhearted girl the way.


Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola, Florida.  Her poetry has previously been published in Anti-Heroin Chic, Quail Bell Magazine, Infernal Ink, Mookychick, Occulum, Digging Through the Fat and No Other Tribute, an anthology.  Follow her at twitter.com/lolaandjolie and her author site at kristingarth.wordpress.com

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7 Responses

  1. Amy Foreman

    Wow. I really like “On Formal Slavery (to a Nation of Free Verse)”. Perfect imagery. Bravo, Kristin!

  2. Nathan

    On Formal Slavery is fantastic! A great and intelligent response to those who call formalist poetry poor quality.

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    The poem “On Formal Slavery…” is brilliant! I normally look askance at slant-rhymes, but in this case they are so well done and seemingly inevitable that I refuse to say a word against them. Excellently done!

  4. David Watt

    ‘On Formal Slavery…’ is a read again and again poem for me. Very well executed!

  5. Leonard Dabydeen

    Kristin Griffin has given us a beautiful and sensuous write in this poem, “On Formal Slavery.” The imagery and flow of thought bring a vivid picture to reflect on “purple backs” slaves… “For we work best restrained,/and by the wisest hands have we been trained.” TFS.


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