Damnation churns within his breast,
the night's events at havoc's leisure
keening light dimpled by the shadow; bereft
of idle reason and passion his only measure
Of love's deceit besmirching his name,
he knows not how he thought a victor was he
when all that's been lost was never his gain
and past virtue is just a memory.
His secret he knows he has to tell -
run to confession, seek out the knoll;
Pray for mercy of this earner of Hell
and Hail Mary that his mind is whole.
"Father, Father," he cries in distress,
"Upon this night I have taken a life,
I've bloodied my knife and of my hands less,
yet fear of the law is greater than the strife
Within my spirit for the virtue I've shamed-
and shamed twice over! I have loved and lost
and under the moon my lover I've maimed.
I blame not myself wholly for she was full of frost
When I wanted to fill her with warmth.
She was a deceitful harlot, a woman of ways-
A man-hunter and a whore! Her lack of conform
to the ladies' norm first made me sway
When she greased her face and flesh
was bare. I thought it ambitious she was
one foot forward, but still was I to guess
that no suffragette was she! By men's applause
She buffeted laws and took money paid
day-by-day - but mostly night. I am a fool
who believed in golden-hearts, who took a trade
in reputation for love when I was only a tool."
The priest is piqued, his interest sworn,
and softly he urges the man to go on.
His curiosity beats down his scorn
as the tale of the murder is born:
“When I was blind and trussed up,
too drunk to see her for who she was,
I wanted her to be mine, to share the same cup,
but she acted coy and playful without pause,
Denying my offerings and breaking my pride.
Who would wish for a woman so wanton?
I! And every other man from far or wide
to feed their appetites until they are gone.
But back they came, again and again,
lusty as ever and ripe with greed,
and who was I to suspect I’d soon be slain,
stabbed in the back by a friend-in-need.
And his own needs did he tend to!
He did the act and left her laying,
told me the news and ran my heart through.
A set-up, he said, so I too didn’t end up paying.
He told me of her other men – not lovers,
just labourers who carved their niche in women,
and women of the easy kind, not like others –
respectable ladies with a chase too tiring.
At his words I roared and I wailed,
defaming his name and his mother, too!
Upon his head my fists almost hailed,
but my anger sought bloodshed, murder! From who?
The slut! The tramp! The villainess!
I hissed and scowled and made a vow
to take the life of that bitch and no less.
Get out, I screamed, get out now-
I took it upon myself to threaten my man,
the revelation of the traitor unforgiven
enough to startle him into a sudden plan:
to escape London with his thoughts driven
That I might not strike him into submission
and make him the bearer of bad news.
But I had to be the one to take her life’s vision,
it wouldn’t do well for me to twice lose.
Away the traitor fled with his heart hammering
in his chest, and then and there my plans begun,
spun into days and weeks of the torture I’d bring
to the she-devil who had made me the fool of her fun.
How I plotted and planned and piloted
the ideas of my madness and bubbling rage,
colluding with my dark intentions that derided
she who wore her flesh to earn her wage.
I avoided her contact, her letters, her friends,
and locked myself away to meet fruition,
while she went on unaware of her dead-end,
I worked as if I was on God’s personal mission.
My scalpels were soon ready, and a rope just in case,
and now the waiting began for the sun to drop
as I dressed with the mask of nightmare’s face,
who would be the one to greet my fair lady for the chop.”
The man has stooped forward with a flushed brow,
with the priest’s eyes upon him, eager and aglow.
“Talk, my child, what makes you hesitate now,
Upon this night what misery did you sew?”
“Father, I can’t! The act is too heinous,
you’d quickly be sick where you sit,”
he replies with a grin so outrageous
that the priest hears hell’s furnaces lit.
Pushing forward with courage and vigour
the priest cajoles the maddened confessor,
“Your story needs to be told, now consider
the guilt if you continue to play the devil’s lesser,
With your thoughts full of wrongdoings
and your mind stirring trouble;
your heart in its stewing’s
and your soul paying double.
Now speak up and keep going with your
crime’s confession, tell the tale or else
the devil will beat the police to your door.
You’ll be left with nothing but your health
And it won’t last you to the gates of Hell.”
The man steadies himself and takes a breath,
focuses his mind and prepares to tell
to the priest all that is left.
“It was this morn I visited her
with a balm to my heart,
the letters I had penned to lure
out my hatred and with my love part
Once and for all in order to quell
the hunger in me that called for
the death of the girl.
Yet approaching the window I saw
An ambitious client’s visit,
and stricken once more I departed.
I might’ve been finished with it
then, no longer able to conclude the plans I’d started,
But the torments went on with their lies
echoing around in my mind,
and the phantom moans of her droning like flies
beseeched me to wait until night and find
Her corner of London town
where she would be red-lighting
flesh-for-sale; and I’d drag her down
with her screams – oh, she’d sing!
And wait I did, and wait and wait,
with my patience I could be a saint,
if I hadn’t but found her out late
and finally did the deed that painted the taint
Of being the devil’s own on my soul,
but rid of the anguish of wrath I became,
parted with sorrow I felt myself whole
and there and then decided upon a name.
But not before I’d had my ways,
cutting and slicing from X-to-Y,
I made sure she knew how she pays
for her life and for the lie
That she condemned in her body
that failed to thrive, the organs
of birth that were no more than shoddy
as a lawman not knowing the meaning of wrong.
Out I cut them, didn’t hack but
sliced with a surgeon’s precision,
she lost while I gained a heart hard as nut
to the intentions of my incision;
and then her life-blood drained,
her screams drowned in her throat,
my deed done and my passion waned,
I fled the scene to a location remote
So here I came to visit you, priest,
and now my story’s done, my confession
complete! There’s no more words to greet
your mind nor to bring you tension.
But you know I’ve yet to see the gallows
and I don’t plan for an introduction
with the hangman or his fellows,
I don’t care for the rope’s induction.”
He has risen but the priest quickly beckons,
“Stay, stay! You’ve left out one detail,”
but the man grimaces and begins to reckon
that the priest might put the police on his trail.
“Back away,” he snarls, “Stay seated, Father,
I’ve no longer a need for the company
of God’s watchman or the Devil’s martyr,
so you just be while I run free
Of holy ground and holy rites,
I’ve given you the story of a life
and confessed now, might
it be that you want to see me to the afterlife?”
The priest is shocked, he’s stupefied
by the man’s retelling of terror, yet
his curiosity won’t let him be denied
the killer’s name. He’s eager and set
To question the monster ‘til dawn,
but meek and clamouring he enquires
of whose confession he has drawn
and of the man with such desires.
Smirking with glee but full of nerves,
the murderer complies but makes
it known he’ll be off with no reserves
after his name but his escape,
And so set to flee, the door ajar,
the man reassures he won’t be back,
here at least: “but remember your saviour
when you next hear the name Saucy Jack.”