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The Cold Within

Six men were trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story's told.

Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces 'round the fire
He noticed one was black.

The next man looking 'cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn't bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man's face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

And the last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

Their logs held tight in death's still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn't die from the cold without;
They died from the cold within.

James Patrick Kinney

Originally published in Liguorian, April 1970, reprinted with permission from Ligourian, One Ligouri Drive, Ligouri, MO 63057, USA http://www.liguori.org

I'd like to thank Maureen Geddes for having brought this poem to my attention.