Martin Robertson

Now and Then

Law Report

This child was thrashed to death for thieving, lying

and filthy habits which, the father said,

were driving him and her mother nearly mad.

The neighbours say:  We knew that she was dying—

skin, bone and scared eyes, moving like a mouse

in the dusk of walls, craved scraps of food and love

—a sweet little girl—hanging’s not bad enough—

But who can know the darkness of that house?

A black brew of stupidity, distilled

through stunted generations; yet moving in it

a blindworm urge to love makes for a minute

contact, perhaps; lost that, sinks choked and chilled,

changes to hate—for much more than each other:

for life, which that lost spark has shown as spoiled.

This darkness then was visited on the child;

until they killed her, and the police took over.