The Schools of Class. A Thesaurus

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[A poem from my collection Requiem (Picaro Press) on torture as state terrorism in past and present.]

The Schools of Class. A Thesaurus

Therefore the more I denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.
– Charles Dickens, ‘American Notes for General Circulation’ (1850)

Penal torturers have their own poetic
thesaurus understood across time & space.

The spread eagle crucifies for eight hours
& leaves you paralysed for days.
The tube gag, originally to make uppity
women bite their tongue, forces breath
or bloodied foam through a small hole
in the wooden plug. The scavenger’s daughter
binds you in foetal position till you scream
with cramp. The water pit is a dark cell
with water to your waist where sleeping
is drowning. The cat slashes into the back
with special knots, stops for some extra
salt water bite & resumes to block the wounds
from healing & provide innocent maggots
with a warm home. (100 lashes for singing
or smiling while on the chain). The everlasting
staircase or cockchafer
is a treadmill, progress
merging punishment with profit, pain,
the monotony of milling our fine & daily bread.

Further progress moves the site of power’s stark
inscriptions from body to brain. Names are removed
for numbers, charges never laid, shoes felted,
isolation imposed & twenty hour lights,
all self sabotaged with windowless walls
& hoods. The suspects rendered unto democratic
Caesars are outsourced to the white silences
of black prisons where they’re pornographically
stacked in naked pyramids, sexually humiliated,
strapped to boards & water surfed over
gagged mouths & desperate drowning eyes.

Will blind history be the judge, prosecute
the penal lingua franca with no right
to remain silent on the rude question posed
by its secret subtext: can these schools of pain
ever end before class is dismissed? Can class
be dismissed without new schools of pain?

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on May 8, 2013.

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