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The Whipping

Written by: Robert Hayden | Biography
 | Quotes (1) |
 The old woman across the way
 is whipping the boy again
and shouting to the neighborhood
 her goodness and his wrongs.

Wildly he crashes through elephant ears,
 pleads in dusty zinnias,
while she in spite of crippling fat
 pursues and corners him.

She strikes and strikes the shrilly circling
 boy till the stick breaks
in her hand. His tears are rainy weather
 to woundlike memories:

My head gripped in bony vise
 of knees, the writhing struggle
to wrench free, the blows, the fear
 worse than blows that hateful

Words could bring, the face that I
 no longer knew or loved . . .
Well, it is over now, it is over,
 and the boy sobs in his room,

And the woman leans muttering against
 a tree, exhausted, purged--
avenged in part for lifelong hidings
 she has had to bear.