The Damned


John Ciardi

Martyrs, gunmen, angry wives,

desperate husbands, and fugitives

snap their lives with guns and knives,

lions and visions, jolts and jars,

poison, plunges, and gas from cars.

They set their hearts on seeing stars

and they see stars. Through every haze

that's in them all their nights and days

they get to see the whole sky blaze

that once. Just once. But once will do.

Finalities are not to chew.

The damned get one gulp. Then they're through.

We couldn't praise them, you and I.

Still, we note as they plunge by

they do stick to the point. That's why

we half admire them.—I confess

I do. Whatever their distress

they leave with something to express.

We don't die: we just digress.


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