Man writing on wall

Go Figure


Crotchwell thinks I am mad.
Crotchwell thinks I am mad
while he sits in his corner
playing with his paddle-ball
bouncy-bouncy-bounce.

When his time comes
Crotchwell sits in front of the board
hands fidgeting
occasionally going to the key
around his neck
just as I sit at the board
when it is my turn.

When it is not my turn
that is, when it is Crotchwell’s turn
I like to write.
I have run out of paper
margins and all
so I have taken to writing on the walls.

Crotchwell watches me
and undoubtedly considers
whether this is odd behavior
or not.

Sometimes his hand strays near
the .45 on his hip
and he thinks
of whether he should kill me
or not.

For if one of us is acting strangely,
it is the duty of the other
to shoot the strange one.

This is an order.

We have many orders.

We are to watch this board
and wait for something unusual to happen.

We were not told
what this unusual thing would be,
but we were assured
that we would know it
when it came.

If something indefinably unusual
happens on the board,
Crotchwell is supposed to proceed
to one end of the room
and I to the other.

Then we are to take the keys
from around our necks,
insert them in the special locks
and turn them at the same time.

If we do that,
something very unusual will happen.

Something much more unusual
than a few lights on a board.

In the meantime,
though,
Crotchwell plays with his paddle-ball
and I shall write on the walls.

I covet Crotchwell’s paddle-ball —
I have asked him if I could play with it
and that earned me only a baleful glare
from Crotchwell,
keeper of the paddle-ball.

I tried to take it from him
and play with it myself
but he found out.

Now he sleeps with it
under his pillow,
and sometimes
the ball hangs down
as if his pillow
were growing a testicle.

Crotchwell’s pillow
grows a testicle
and I compose sonnets on this event
writing them on the wall
so small that none can read them
not even Crotchwell.

I do not want him to know
that I am composing sonnets
about his paddle-ball —
I used to write large
but I have gotten smaller, because
of space considerations as well as
Crotchwell himself;
I wonder if he will consider this strange behavior.

Crotchwell watches me
he undoubtedly thinks of shooting me
and I watch Crotchwell
I try to decide if I should shoot him
or not.

Perhaps if I shot him
it would bring some reprieve
to this madness.

Perhaps if he shot me
it would bring some reprieve
to this madness.

It is an endless game,
between Crotchwell
and I
and we’re not even players —
I’ve got the strangest feeling.

I think I’ve got it figured
that we’re just pawns.

We don’t figure,
Crotchwell or
myself,
and the paddle-ball
and the poetry
figure even less,
but at least
they give us
something to think about
when we are not
watching the board
for something unusual to happen.


Here’s some background on the subject of this poem.

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Posted by John Onorato

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