Dangerous Smile (Reprise)

A famous author went to stand
At one of those points on this Earth
At which are giv’n the strictest tests
Of latent human worth

Of courage and persistence
Determination steely strong
Of to-the-death resistance
To right a total wrong

He stood upon a bridge wherefrom
On one end he could see
A land complete oppression of —
The other end was free

And interviewed the people
Come from ‘neath the iron boot
At end of their fantastic’ly
Deadly dangerous route

Through swamps, ‘cross rivers, camped in woods
Up the steepest mountainside
Always glancing to the rear
Always the need to hide

He stayed to ask some questions of
This woebegone humanity
These tattered soldiers of despair
Of their lives formerly

One woman — young and strong she’d been,
She told him, ‘ere necessity
Evading of imprisonment
Had sent her on this odyssey

Now staggered the full distance
Of that final little stretch
Like any other refugee
A ghostly staring wreck

As if a woman thrice her age
She did not see the author, for
Her eyes exclusive locked upon
The bridge’s end now her before

And when at last she reached it
She stopped and sank straight to the ground
Not yet quite believing
In the new life she had found

Our author followed and crouched down
This aged girl beside
He handed her a kerchief and
Some money while she cried

When her first spasms passed away
And she calmer became
He gently asked of her if she
Her dreadful crime would name

She kept her great enormous eyes
Fixed on his own the while
She answered that her crime had been
To, once too often, smile

“You see,” she told him, “they would watch
Our mood by manner to infer
A solemn and a serious
Demeanor they prefer

If on the line at work you thought
Of gentle loving grace
They’d pull you off that line and put
Somebody in your place

And then they’d take you off with them
Somewhere you could be made
To understand more fully the
Mistake that you had made

But I was young and had a beau
With whom I fallen had in love
No power anyone could know
Could stop me from him dreaming of

This happened more than once or twice
So eventually
The courts became convinced of my Incorrigibility

If I had not escaped
I never would more freedom see
And no one in my life would know
What had become of me”

Her murmured testimony
Gave our author food for thought
Truth be told he pondered on it
Early, long and late: a lot

Trying to imagine
What living might be like
At one expression pleasure of
Chastising forces strike

Knowing that same expression
Was linked the human brain within
To the renewed capacity
Its parent feeling rebegin

And once they’d interrupted
This healthy feedback loop
Then ‘neath an increased burden of
Sad misery would stoop

Th’ unfortunate recipients
Such a frustrating stricture of
Disabling them as well to
Offer to each other love

But even more than this he saw
The ruling junta terrified
By any hint of laughter
At its inflated pride

He went back home and wrote a book
These wonderful new insights on
The which this wand’ring poet
Then haply happened on

Although every last one of us
Has ways in which we are not free
From place to place and time to time
Those limits vary in degree

I with our own existing form
Feel myself at liberty
With this or that about it
To profoundly disagree

And since I have that author read
I keep in mind the while:
Where I live, in America
The citizens are free to smile


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