The lamp was always lit
So I could sleep but fitfully
They’d let me have no chair
And only narrow cot,
No screen for chamber pot.
My worn and skimpy coat
Was all they would alot.

In silence I could bear
The torture of the lamp, the cold,
The oozing damp and mold,
But when they ushered in the four
I knew the game.
One held the manacle and chain.
Three pinioned me to the floor.

They did not get it easy.
Spent and fevered ill,
I kicked three of them senseless
Til they then ushered in four more.
So me they put in chains.

I hid my chained-down limbs
Beneath my one rough sheet.
Ashamed, subdued they thought.
Instead, I saw in secret sight
All people in the land
Were wearing chains mush worse than mine
Their children and their children too o’er time.
I looked–the grinning guards had stronger chains than mine.
It made the cutting steal
A glory and a crown.

James Everett Kibler

James Everett Kibler is a novelist, poet, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Georgia, where he taught popular courses in Southern literature, examining such figures as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Wendell Berry, and Larry Brown. Born and raised in upcountry South Carolina, Kibler spends much of his spare time tending to the renovation of an 1804 plantation home and the reforestation of the surrounding acreage. This home served as the subject of his first book, Our Fathers’ Fields: A Southern Story, for which he was awarded the prestigious Fellowship of Southern Writers Award for Nonfiction in 1999 and the Southern Heritage Society’s Award for Literary Achievement.


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