Penance For A Dime

Cleatus was a man who was without worth,
or so everyone who knew him claimed,
including the woman who gave him birth
and for whose grandfather he was named.

Gambling and drinking and lazy besides,
he had no merit whatsoever,
and whomsoever he crossed, woe betides
as he would forgive no one never.

Then one day Cleatus had a change of heart,
which is to say, his mean heart stopped dead,
and his mother put him in a mule cart
and took him to town to earn her bread.

“For a penny a hit,” she said aloud,
“I’ll let you get in your vengeful licks!”
There soon formed an eager, carnival crowd,
paying for a baker’s dozen kicks.

Men, women, children of every age
gathered together in giddy glee
as if to watch a famed play on stage
or hear words from a divinity.

The priest in the town held up his Bible,
quite ready to put a stop to it,
but then he remembered well the libel
Cleat had spread about the Jesuit.

Cleatus had said that the Catholic priest
made congress with a bullock each night
and then ate the beast at a pagan feast
with the Devil by Harvest moonlight.

The priest grimly offered a full dollar
and put on his thickest farming boots,
rolled up his sleeves, and loosened his collar,
and kicked Cleatus like the other brutes.

But a kick landed squarely in the chest,
literally kick-starting his heart,
reviving Cleatus, as if he was blessed
by Jesus Christ’s Lazarean art.

“What’s the meaning of all this?” Cleatus cried.
“I feel like I’ve been in a stampede!”
His mother tried to explain, but then sighed—
“Son, you’re more want than you are a need.”

His mother raised her heavy-threaded whip,
ready to beat him unto his death,
but Cleatus cried with a sputtering lip,
and compromised ere his final breath.

Nowadays Cleatus is almost worthless,
still living to lie and cheat and sin
but now the townsfolk can kick him mirthless,
paying his mother a dime for ten.

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