We will threaten our victims that they must give us their money
or be forced to read a poem.
We will be merciless.
We won’t target random people walking down the street
(although we may occasionally walk too closely behind them,
reciting as many lines as we can
as they runwalk away from us as fast as they can),
or small business owners who are delicately trying to balance
sleeping and paperwork and customers and eating and emails
and family and money and writing their business plan in their spare time
(but we might slip short poems under their doors
to make them pause for a moment).
We will hold a sharpened lead pencil to the carotid arteries of
too rich businessmen and offer them a chance to save themselves
by reading Tony Hoagland to us;
if they stumble over the line breaks
then we will press the point in and let blood pump
over their white shirts and striped ties and office desk blotters.
For gang members we will hover a single sheet of 90gsm A5 paper
just above their fingertips;
if they slip up while reading Wordsworth
and letting the words rise and fall with their breath
we shall be unforgiving as the first of five hundred (eventually) fatal
paper cuts open up their bodies.
We suspect we will probably become quite happily well off,
with most preferring to give us money (in unmarked bills)
than to read a poem;
but if our victims are willing to risk their luck and experience a poem,
well, the world may be a little bit richer for the words.
So we will always win.
First published in takahē 92 (2018)