Rain, lapping at the windows fast,
falls cold and ceaseless, painting lines
of marble on the silvered glass
while clouds cast dark and thunder whines;
but these walls will not let it pass
and through a cloud-gap sunlight shines.

I watch it from the darkened room,
for I am waiting for my doom.

As I sling off my coat, I sit,
watch fire lighting the dark den,
as shadows, dancing, candle-lit,
crawl closer and turn into men
who swarm around me; now one sits
and eyes me, cornered beast, here penned.

I look away, ashamed, and think
what had been wrought by debt and drink.

He looks me over, wondering
what impulses of anger can
provoke such deeds, such awful things—
he asks me, knowing, why I ran,
and hears the truth; I cannot sing
my lies: I say I killed a man.

He owed me ten, he thought it five,
I could not leave a cheat alive.

His sigh clouds up against the glass
and mingles with the droplets there,
still falling, as if this young lass
had never killed, or never shared
her deed with others. Then he asks—
why had I laid my actions bare.

He asks me why I thought to kill
to right a debt, to pay a bill.

Why had I killed?—it was not right
to ask me that, I told the man;
there is no cause, I said, to fight,
to kill, make war, but that we can:
we must, I fear, make right by might,
it is our kills that help us stand.

The falling rain makes dark the room;
I am still waiting for my doom.



James Preston Pack is an eleventh grader at Killian Hill Christian School in Lilburn, Georgia.

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9 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    This is incredible – eleven years old, indeed!

    You lost me with the “young lass” – I’m not sure who she is or how she got into your poem, but I don’t care. It’s still incredible.

    May I suggest that you go on YouTube and listen to Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” – I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Joe, My read is that the poem’s protagonist is a woman, a point obfuscated by the male subject of the accompanying picture, the male gender of the poet and the repeated references to the imagined (or real) presence of men (or a man) in the room (cell or “den”) along with the attendant masculine pronouns. If I am correct, then this surprising twist reveals our biased inclination to mistakenly pre-presume that the murderer is male. As for the poem itself, it successfully captures a graphic atmosphere using visually descriptive language to great effect. Whether intentional or not, the irregular rhyme and rhythmic structure reflects and underscores the unstable mental state of the killer (which in turn reminds me of the mental breakdown of the central character in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment). I felt raw power in this poem and commend the author both for writing it and for submitting it. I hope to see more in the future.

  2. peter venable

    Good poem but being retired in mental health, I must inquire, if any of this is real to you–depression, grief, etc. TELL some adult! If it’s merely a poem, keep composing.

  3. Leo Zoutewelle

    I’d say that Peter’s comment above
    is quite a compliment to the achieved realism of the poet in his work. Congratulations!

  4. C.B. Anderson

    Are you the next serial high-school killer or not? I can’t tell, but I hope you won’t suddenly appear in my neighborhood. Yet you have already done so. You are scary, which I presume was your intention. Or maybe, God reduced to supervisionary status, you just wanted to get published. You have succeeded and need trouble us no more.

    • Joe Tessitore

      I don’t know what the profile is of a young man who goes terribly wrong.

      I do know that this is a young man who can tell a hell of a good story and has the courage to do it.

  5. David Paul Behrens

    My first thought, when I started reading this poem, was that it reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe. Very imaginative, and let us hope that is all there is to it.

  6. chopinthegreat

    Dear James, you are simply God gifted. To be able to write as such at the mere age of eleven, you are truly gifted. This poem of yours stands to attest to that. It is beautiful.


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