Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tuesday Poem: "The Cold Within" by James Patrick Kinney

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces round the fire
He noticed one was black.

The next man looking ‘cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes.
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without
They died from the cold within.

     -- James Patrick Kinney

Not a great deal of information is available about this poet, but this is an archive dedicated to his work:


Normally, I prefer that a poem speaks for itself and lets the reader produce their own mental images, but I came across this filmed version of the poem so I thought I would share it with you:



  1. I really enjoyed this post.I think it sits very well with this type of poem to use extra information as you have done. Both the movie and the story by the poet's son enhanced the poem for me.

  2. Thanks, Helen. It is a poem many would consider old-fashioned perhaps, but I think it deals with a truism in a very inventive way. Sometimes you need the message to supersede the form.

  3. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but yikes, this hits hard. I watched the video version with my daughter. Makes an impact, hearing this poem read aloud.

  4. Thanks, Michelle. I hope boat life continues to be lots of fun. I wish you only fair winds, sunshine, blue skies and absolutely no cyclones on the horizon.