Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOM MOONEY, by WILLIAM ELLERY LEONARD



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TOM MOONEY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Tom mooney sits behind a grating
Last Line: In more than ten big cities, left and right.
Subject(s): Labor Unions; Mooney, Thomas Joseph (1882-1942); Revolutions


I
TOM MOONEY sits behind a grating,
Beside a corridor. (He's waiting.)
Long since he picked or peeled or bit away
The last white callous from his palms, they say.
The crick is gone from out his back;
And all the grease and grime
Gone from each finger-nail and every knuckle-crack.
(And that took time.)

II
Tom Mooney breathes behind a grating,
Beside the corridor. (He's waiting.)
The Gold-men from ten cities hear in sleep
Tom Mooney breathing -- for he breathes so deep.
The Gold-men from ten cities rise from bed
To make a brass crown for Tom Mooney's head;
They gather round great oaken desks -- each twists
Two copper bracelets for Tom Mooney's wrists.
And down sky-scraper basements (all their own)
They forge the spikes for his galvanic throne.
The Gold-men love the jests of old Misrule --
At ease at last, they'll laugh their fill;
They'll deck Tom Mooney king, they will --
King over knave and fool.
And from enameled doors of rearward office-vaults,
Lettered in gold with names that never crock,
They will draw back the triple iron bolts,
Then scatter from the ridges of their roofs
The affidavits of their paper-proofs
Of pallid Tomfool's low and lubber stock.

III
Tom Mooney thinks behind a grating,
Beside a corridor. (He's waiting.)
(Tom Mooney free was but a laboring man;
Tom Mooney jailed's the Thinker of Rodin.)
The workers in ten nations now have caught
The roll and rhythm of Tom Mooney's thought --
By that earth-girdling S. O. S.,
The subtle and immortal wireless
Of Man's strong justice in distress.
The Workers in ten nations think and plan:
The pick-ax little Naples man,
The rice-swamp coolies in Japan
(No longer mere embroidery on a screen),
The crowds that swarm from factory gates,
At yellow dusks with all their hates,
In Ireland, Austria, Argentine,
In England, France, and Russia far
(That slew a Czar), --
Or where the Teutons lately rent
The Iron Cross (on finding what it meant);
At yellow dusks with all their hates
From fiery shops or gas-choked mines,
From round-house, mill, or lumber-pines,
In the broad belt of these United States.
The Workers, like the Gold-men, plan and wake, --
What bodes their waking?
The Workers, like the Gold-men, something make, --
What are they making? --
The Gold-men answer often --
"They make Tom Mooney's coffin."

IV
Tom Mooney talks behind a grating,
Beside a corridor. (He's waiting.)
You cannot get quite near
Against the bars to lay your ear;
You find the light too dim
To spell the lips of him.
But, like a beast's within a zoo
(That was of old a god to savage clans),
His body shakes at you --
A beast's, a god's, a man's!
And from its ponderous, ancient rhythmic shaking
Ye'll guess what 'tis the workers now are making.
They make for times to come
From times of old -- how old! --
From sweat, from blood, from hunger, and from tears,
From scraps of hope (conserved through bitter years
Despite the might and mockery of gold),
They make, these haggard men with shawl-wives dumb
And pinched-faced children cold,
Descendants of the oldest, earth-born stock,
Gnarled brothers of the surf, the ice, the fire, the rock,
Gray wolf and gaunt storm-bird.
They make a bomb more fierce than dynamite, --
They weld a Word.
And on the awful night
The Gold-men set Tom Mooney grinning
(If such an hour shall be in truth's despite)
They'll loose the places of much underpinning
In more than ten big cities, left and right.




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