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Hard Rock Returns To Prison From The Hospital For The Criminal Insane

 Hard Rock/ was/ "known not to take no shit 
From nobody," and he had the scars to prove it:
Split purple lips, lumbed ears, welts above
His yellow eyes, and one long scar that cut
Across his temple and plowed through a thick 
Canopy of kinky hair.
The WORD/ was/ that Hard Rock wasn't a mean nigger Anymore, that the doctors had bored a hole in his head, Cut out part of his brain, and shot electricity Through the rest.
When they brought Hard Rock back, Handcuffed and chained, he was turned loose, Like a freshly gelded stallion, to try his new status.
and we all waited and watched, like a herd of sheep, To see if the WORD was true.
As we waited we wrapped ourselves in the cloak Of his exploits: "Man, the last time, it took eight Screws to put him in the Hole.
" "Yeah, remember when he Smacked the captain with his dinner tray?" "he set The record for time in the Hole-67 straight days!" "Ol Hard Rock! man, that's one crazy nigger.
" And then the jewel of a myth that Hard Rock had once bit A screw on the thumb and poisoned him with syphilitic spit.
The testing came to see if Hard Rock was really tame.
A hillbilly called him a black son of a bitch And didn't lose his teeth, a screw who knew Hard Rock >From before shook him down and barked in his face And Hard Rock did nothing.
Just grinned and look silly.
His empty eyes like knot holes in a fence.
And even after we discovered that it took Hard Rock Exactly 3 minutes to tell you his name, we told ourselves that he had just wised up, Was being cool; but we could not fool ourselves for long.
And we turned away, our eyes on the ground.
He had been our Destroyer, the doer of things We dreamed of doing but could not bring ourselves to do.
The fears of years like a biting whip, Had cut deep bloody grooves Across our backs.

by Etheridge Knight
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