Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JUSTICE, by BERTON BRALEY



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JUSTICE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: John henry vanderdecken was a modern business man
Last Line: "will stick around ""in conference"" until the end of time!"
Subject(s): Business; Office Work; Businessmen; Businesswomen


John Henry Vanderdecken was a Modern Business Man
Who ran his private office on the double-entry plan;

Which means he had two entry rooms outside his sacred den.
The outer one was guarded by an office boy, and then

The inner one was warded by a Private Secretary,
—John Henry Vanderdecken was a busy person, very!

At any rate he seemed to be. To get to him was hard;
The hard-boiled office boy outside would ask you for your card

And, speaking in a fashion which was quite devoid of ointment,
He'd pull that good old office line; "Ah, have you an appointment?"

Then ask you for the nature and duration of your call
And tell you, very curtly, to be seated—in the hall!

And after half an hour or more he would return and say,
"The boss is in a conference and can't be seen to-day."

If you possessed a lot of crust you might get past the boy,
And then the secretary'd say, in manner soft and coy,

"Perhaps you'd better let me know your project or your plan,
For Mr. Vanderdecken is a very busy man."

And if you wouldn't spill it as she tried to third-degree you,
She'd take your card and mutter, "Well, I doubt if he can see you,"

And when you'd cooled your heels awhile she would return and say,
"He's busy in a conference and can't be seen to-day!"

So often was this system worked that only one per cent
Of Vanderdecken's callers ever got to see the gent;

And nine-tenths of his office force—or maybe even more—
Knew Vanderdecken merely as a name upon a door.

And if they tried to see him—just to gaze upon his face,
Or talk about a raise in pay; they'd have to wait a space,

And then the secretary or the office boy would say,
"The boss is in a conference and can't be seen to-day!"

What did he do in conference to keep him busied so?
I never passed the office boy and so I do not know!

John Henry Vanderdecken, being mortal, had to die.
His spirit left his body and went mounting to the sky.

"The wind that blew between the worlds"—(See Kipling's "Tomlinson")—
Seemed cold to Vanderdecken, as it would to any one,

For interspacial ether is a region bleak and stark
And several hundred thousand miles below the zero mark.

John Henry Vanderdecken rang the bell at Heaven's gate.
The cherub in the office let him ring—and let him wait,

And Vanderdecken shivered for perhaps a year or so
(For time means simply nothing up in Heaven, as you know).

At length the gate was opened and the cherub peered without;
"You wanta see St. Peter, hey? Well, what is it about?

"St. Peter's very busy! Oh, all right, I'll take your card,
But I doubt if he can see you, for he's working very hard."

"The wind that blew between the worlds" our spirit's marrow froze,
And blued his ghostly fingers and his frosted spectral nose,

And then—of course you've guessed it—back the cherub came, to say,
"St. Peter's in a conference and can't be seen to-day."

Not quite—this was the answer that he sent the soul away on,
"St. Peter's in a conference and can't be seen this Æon!"

John Henry Vanderdecken's soul went sadly down to Hell,
"He yearned to see the Hell-fire's glare" and rang and rang the bell.

Like Tomlinson he shivered and like Tomlinson he pled
For just a tiny bed of coals on which to lay his head,

But the office devil told him, and he grinned to see his tears,
"Satan will be in conference for half a million years!"

John Henry Vanderdecken roams the vast and gusty void,
And shivers while he's waiting till St. Peter's unemployed

Or till the Devil finishes the conference he's in
And welcomes Vanderdecken to the last abode of sin.

And when I think of hours I've spent and wasted all away
Because of "busy business men" "in conference to-day,"

When I recall the office boys and secretaries too
Who pulled that ancient bluff on me, I snigger, so I do;

I chortle at the blessed thought of Vanderdecken's plight
A-roaming through the frigid air of interstellar night,

And hope the Devil and St. Pete, with justice most sublime
Will stick around "in conference" until the End of Time!





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