The Cold Within

THE COLD WITHIN
— James Patrick Kinney

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In dark and bitter cold
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back.
For on the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.

The next man looking cross the way,
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes,
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use,
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store.
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without,
They died from —THE COLD WITHIN

This was Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s favorite poem. He made a point of reciting it in the speeches he made after spending twenty years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. He said that it addressed the root of the problems facing the United States. As I listen to the wide range of responses from people to the results of Tuesday’s election, it seems apparent that it holds true today. Yet, as Rubin knew, it does not have to define our society.

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