Old Man Carrying a Bible in High Crime Area

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Old Man Carrying a Bible in High Crime Area

Old Man Carrying a Bible in High Crime Area

The expression "throw the book at" typically means "to punish severely," but Russell Atkins' poem suggests a more literal use for the book the old man carries.

"Old Man Carrying a Bible in High Crime Area" by Russell Atkins

Condense, will it? grow a barrel
                  for shooting?
flash open and spit God's
electric al bullets, Leviticus
as the holy trigger – the thief
drops into hell? book develops
dimensions turned sanctuary
where no muggers plunder?
Does the dope fiend defer
to this, struck to a fix? will the book
in black, cleric vestment
convert loose women?

Old friend, listen: don't wait
– when they come at you,
throw it at them!

"Old Man Carrying a Bible in High Crime Area" by Russell Atkins from Voices of Cleveland edited by Leonard Trawick.  Cleveland State Poetry Center, 1996. Used with permission of the author..

Russell Atkins, a poet in the forefront of experimental arts since the 1950s, is the subject of the new book, Russell Atkins: On the Life and Work of an American Master (Pleiades Press, 2013). He was co-founder and editor of Free Lance, a ground-breaking literary magazine. In addition to poetry, Atkins has published prose, drama and music.