Twenty Eyes (Includes Audio version!)

dVerse Poets Pub is celebrating their one year anniversary this week, and I am pleased to participate. I’ve been reading a lot of Jack London lately, and this poem was inspired by one of his works. I made an audio of this one, and finally figured out how to get it on the blog! Check it out by clicking on the soundcloud link below the poem!

Twenty Eyes


Staggering, he wanders into the web

Unaware… of twenty eyes upon him

Breath afoul with cheap ale and pipe

Pockets all but empty, he sings a mumbling tune

We will take his sodden dignity… even soul

If that be all he has to give


In silent darkness thick as ink

Away from the wash of candle

We take him down in quiet frenzy

A grunt of late surprise cut short

By dirty clutching hands

Attached to urchins of street and night


There be no spark of fight within the man

Fear and hope for life stay him limp and trembling

As we free him of shoes and clothes to trade for a meal

Sudden arguing erupts over who will carry the watch

Broadway Boy, not the biggest; the meanest

Will proudly tell us the time—incorrect—in days to come


Meaningless, this thing called time

But shiny of day and gaslight is the timepiece

Ours, a world of light and dark… not hours

Moving web and trap when prey finds us out

Knowing though darkness hide us

Only by surprise… does the spider catch the fly


Copyright © 2012 C. Mashburn   

Audio —>       


  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    WOW! I am speechless . . .

    • Wait til you hear the audio version! I think I have to upgrade my WP to be able to do audios on the blog posts.

  2. Jody Collins said

    Charles, the line ‘we will take his sodden dignity’ just made me think about accepting homeless people for who they are–people, our equal, who should be treated with respect and dignity.

    I’ve haven’t ready any Jack London–even The Call of the Wild….but I’m guessing you wove him together well.

    Good luck on the audio–you’re a brave man!

    • Actually this depicts homeless boys running in gangs in the early 1900s. The victim was not homeless, but merely inebriated and broke from a night at the pub.
      I read all of London’s wolf and dog stories when I was young, and receently re-read them, along with everything else he’s ever written. Some fascinating stuff!
      Thanks for the visit and comment, Jody!

  3. Wow everybody seems to be pulling out all the stops for dVerse’s anniversary !! Great poem !!

  4. this is really good charles…makes me think too on how the lines blur between light and dark in such adverse situations as homelessness and survival…the packs come through well in this as well..each filling their role so the pack survives…

    • Yes, things can get blurry when survival is the goal; something most of us have never had to concern ourselves with.
      Thanks, Brian!

  5. Yikes… spiders, webs and trapping prey, all great metaphor for homeless street boys. Wonderful write Charles.
    Download a free program that will allow you to change your file to an Mp3 or a sound Wav. You need then to upload it to a free sound file saving site such as soundcloud and then add the URL site as a file, not an image. an’t do any harm trying. I’m sure you don’t have to upgrade your WP to do this.

    • Thank you for the wonderful comment, and thank you also for the helpfulsuggestions on the audio aspect!

  6. Yes, you can add an audio file but you need to send it to a sound file website first. Join Soundcloud for free, send your file there and, then add its soundcloud URL to your WP instead of under image, click audio.

  7. ayala said

    A wonderful write, Charles.

  8. Wow Charles, what an incredible poem you have pulled out of the bag for us tonight. I love the street urchin story behind this, and the dark scrappy tones which are quite a shift from some of your recent warm and cosy nostalgia (which I have thoroughly enjoyed also!). Congratulations on an excellent sound cloud delivery too – before you ask, nope, I still don’t think I can bring myself to do one.

    • I am very much inspired by the reading of Jack London these last few weeks. I’d read all his dog and wolf books when I was young, but until recently, didn’t even know about his other stuff. A fascinating writer. I will probably be writing more on the various topics he has written about. He’s one of those writers who writes a story in almost poetic form.
      Thank you Vanessa! I’m glad you enjoyed the reading,too. I don’t reaally have a good voice for it, but it’s fun anyway!

  9. Hey, I just listened to you read it. Very good. 🙂 Your voice is so much different to what I thought it would be. Nice reading!

    • You were probably expecting a nasal twang! ah’ight den?
      Thanks for taking the time to come back and listen!

  10. Grace said

    I listened to it too ~ Much more emotional then just plain reading it ~

    Thanks for sharing ~

    • Thank you very much, Grace! I guess y’all know I’m gonna go crazy with this new toy. There are a lot of my poems I’d love to read. Remember “Cannonball”?

  11. great tribute! I really find truth in this Charles 🙂

  12. excellent, well woven story sir. good stuff

  13. Susan said

    Your voice is compelling behind this story and its commentary on time, possessions, dignity, and what we know. Your descriptions take us there.

  14. Hooked and held my attention, telling a full story in so few words. Not easy to do, though you made it look effortless.

  15. A historical tableau, captured in these verses. Well-wrought, even the diction and choice of words evokes that slice of time.

  16. Ravenblack said

    This is frightening to find oneself in, either as victim or as one of the gang. I can’t get the audio to work on the computer I’m right now, so I probably have to try again later.

    • Yes. I read about these times in history, and the ease of our life today is magnified.
      Thank you for the visit and comment!

  17. I love Jack London – who, I think, is very popular worldwide. At least I once met an Afghani guy in India who was going on and on about him. This is a wonderful poem, Charles – you depict the scene very vividly and humanly; really, it’s a story as well as a poem. k.

    • London is one of the authors responsible for my love of reading. I read everything I could get my hands on, and his–especially “The Call of the Wild”, left a lasting impression.
      Thank you for the awesome comment,k!

  18. yoga-adan said

    i smelt me a bit of dickens i did, but then when thousands of years of lit and peoms mingle in a tv happy brain… 😉

    esp liked,

    “Broadway Boy, not the biggest; the meanest

    Will proudly tell us the time—incorrect—in days to come” –

    seems to say where the survival point in this time and place comes from…

    nicely felt and expressed piece charles, thanks!

    • Well, Adan, my old brain has so many writers and poets and tv shows in it, there’s no telling what might come out of it.
      Thanks for the great comment!

  19. poemsofhateandhope said

    Lie something from Charles Dickens- love allow the grubby, hungry theiverary goings in this….reading it painted pictures in black and white, of old London, of gaslight and smog and grubby pickpockets roaming the streets….so so cool to read and even cooler to visualise- I want to hear it read!!!

  20. Mary said

    I first read the poem and enjoyed it; and because this morning I had time to listen to you read as well I did so. It really does add a lot to hear it being read. I think I am going to have to experiment with this soundcloud. You captured the times and situation well in your words. For some reason I was reminded of Oliver Twist.

    • I resisted the temptation to read and post, but now that I’ve tried it, I’m probably going to try it again, and again… and again.
      It does have a bit of a Twist twist to it.
      Thanks, Mary!

      • Mary said

        I am going to have to give that a try sometime too. I doubt a lot of people want to spend time listening to others read poems, but perhaps a few will. I did read some lines which will be included in the dVerse reading tomorrow; so that will be kind of cool.

      • I agree that not many will want to listen, but I hope some will, because there are some of my poems that lend themselves well to a reading. (You have GOT to listen to “Cannonball” if you have time!) I love doing it, and will have to resist the temptation to do it with all my poems. But then again, maybe I will, so those who want to listen can.
        Thanks for stopping by, Mary!

  21. zongrik said

    so much patience

    Lillian Gish

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