Underside of Being by Victor Marrero


Exertion itself must be the thing. Surely the tension 
is there. Pained devotion to exhaustion and grit
stiffens will near the finish line: a native instinct 
of muscle and nerve, a twitch to flight, an ache 
wound-sprung deep inside each cell. 
Each recalls the captive’s limit of self-restraint. 
The reflex to be, the impulse to become what being 
begs to be, the primal need itself, blend as one.

Outcasts seized within walls of solid blocks.
Arms outstretched taut as a bow strung to the reach 
of endurance. Nerves on edge strain on the verge 
of snapping themselves to pieces. The prisoners 
plot escape by any desperate means free will commands.
Alien freedom closes in around them, 
lethal from all sides to the point of self-destruction 
that springs from the underside of being.


To serve, to flee, to call an end 
to what curtails execution,
or else see bondage 
go all out to occupy 
its last resort— 
All that negates aspiration 
clamors urgent as breath 
to burst out loud into open air. 
Confinement so incites spirit.
To expire unchained, 
to free itself from indignities 
the slave endures  
chiseled by a brazen talent, 
yet overwrought by design. 

Near the end, that awesome need 
to be done grabs hold, 
rancorous through its final passage
with message of triumph in hand. 
Release gets on its mark.
Inside the isolation ward, 
the exile’s clenched fists
pound on a padded door, 
insistent until the drumbeat 
of hard knocks compels 
a different answer. 
A message of surrender. 
An epochal cry. 
Enough. Now is the time.

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