Lament for the Murderers


Where are they now, the genteel murderers
And gentlemanly sleuths, whose household names
Made crime a club for well-bred amateurs;
Slaughter the cosiest of indoor games?

Where are the long week-ends, the sleepless nights
We spent treading the dance in dead men’s shoes,
And all the ratiocinative delights
Of matching motives and unravelling clues,

The public-spirited corpse in evening dress,
Blood like an order across the snowy shirt,
Killings contrived with no unseemly mess
And only rank outsiders getting hurt:

A fraudulent banker or a blackmailer,
The rich aunt dragging out her spiteful life,
The lovely bitch, the cheap philanderer
Bent on seducing someone else’s knife?

Where are those headier methods of escape
From the dull fare of peace: the well-spiced dish
Of torture, violence and brutal rape,
Perversion, madness and still queerer fish?

All gone! That dear delicious make-believe,
The armchair blood-sports and dare-devil dreams.
We dare not even sleep now, dare not leave
The armchair. What we hear are real screams.

Real people, whom we know, have really died.
No one knows why. The nightmares have come true.
We ring the police: A voice says “Homicide!
Just wait your turn. When we get round to you

You will be sorry you were born. Don’t call
For help again: a murderer saves his breath.
When guilt consists in being alive at all
Justice becomes the other name for Death.”

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