DOS PASSOS, John. "They Are Dead Now"

VANZETTI, Bartolomeo (1888-1927)SACCO, Nicola (1891-1927)Literature: poetryDOS PASSOS, John (January 14, 1896 — September 28, 1970)
Funeral of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Boston, 1928

New Masses October 1927, 228–229.

This isn’t a poem
 
This is two men in grey prison clothes.
 
One man sits looking at the sick flesh of his hands—hands that haven’t worked for seven years.
 
Do you know how long a year is?
 
Do you know how many hours there are in a day
 
when a day is twenty-three hours on a cot in a cell,
 
in a cell in a row of cells in a tier of rows of cells
 
all empty with the choked emptiness of dreams?
 
Do you know the dreams of men in jail?
 
They are dead now
 
The black automatons have won.
 
They are burned up utterly
 
their flesh has passed into the air of Massachusetts their dreams have passed into the wind.
 
“They are dead now,” the Governor’s secretary nudges the Governor,
 
“They are dead now,” the Superior Court Judge nudges
 
the Supreme Court Judge,
 
“They are dead now” the College President nudges
 
the College President
 
A dry chuckling comes up from all the dead:
 
The white collar dead; the silkhatted dead;
 
the frockcoated dead
 
They hop in and out of automobiles
 
breathe deep in relief
 
as they walk up and down the Boston streets.
 
they are free of dreams now
 
free of greasy prison denim
 
their voices blow back in a thousand lingoes
 
singing one song
 
to burst the eardrums of Massachusetts
 
Make a poem of that if you dare!