Crime and Punishment

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Old 30-Oct-2010
Crime and Punishment

I close the book on Crime and Punishment
And think of you, my friend, the gifted student,
Who switched your major, once at M.I.T.,
To history, then anthropology—
Through half the catalogue in seven years,
First in, then out of school, grinding your gears.
Playing Raskolnikov, your plight became
Almost a joke between us. Now that name
Reminds me how the spiralling depression
That dragged you from confusion to confession
Blunted your gifts.
For fourteen years of hard time
You stalked through Boston, but your only crime
Was killing your own future, spinning wheels
From Cambridge to the Back Bay's cobbled hills
Driving a taxi—or on all-night walks
Roaming the back streets, where, for several blocks,
You fled, one cold night, pounding the cement
Past stop sign, parked car, light, and tenement,
While steadily behind, a shadow gained,
Waving a pistol. When at last you turned
To face your nemesis, you met no double,
But a common thief, who cursed you for your trouble,
Rifling your wallet with, "What is this shit?
Just some gaddamned IDs—go on, then, keep it,"
Then tossing back your life.
So what's your crime?
What spins you down the sidewalk like a dime
Wobbling, wobbling . . . always just off-center
As autumn passes and approaching winter
Makes Boston your Siberia, your fate
The tragedy you lived to recreate
For me each summer, turning your life to art,
While I, who should have been your counterpart,
Kept both at a safe distance, and now write
What you said then with such criminal delight.

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