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The Worst Crowd That Would Have Him

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He left Oxford with nothing 

but an old guitar

and a new accent—

both of which he had

practiced in secret for years.


At 21 years

he was disgusted to find

he was a man who’d 

never been a child

a youth who’d never rebelled.


He’d spent too long yoked to that 

bastard millstone destiny 

trudging his planned out path. 

Well, sod destiny.

It was time to have some fun.


He sang for his food 

on crusty sidewalks 

and in filthy bars

smoke and disrepute

digging into hair and skin.


He said yes to everything

that he was offered—

uppers and downers

hand-jobs and blow-jobs

couches and beds to sleep on.


But he wasn’t satisfied. 

If Ripper was to 

fulfill the promise of youth

and education

he would need a little help.


First came Ethan: charlatan, 

mock-sorcerer, smooth-talking 

youth bluffing at importance 

and experience so well

Ripper almost believed him.


He and Ripper entangled

like vines, grasping blindly for

each other and power they 

imagined they understood, 

roots drawing from hidden wells.


Then Deidre, fierce witch,

who stole her nan’s spellbook and

summoned an imp to right wrongs 

at school and at home

and got kicked out of both.


And Phillip, ever loyal,

who followed Deidre 

from York to London

bringing his collection of

knives and other wicked toys.


And Thomas, burglar and cheat 

thief of hearts and vintage cars

who wanted to give up his 

life of petty crimes

in favor of grander ones.


Finally Randall,

who exhaled discord

with each turpentine- 

scented breath, made the

rest appear tame, and

could never be predicted.


Ripper looked around

at the gang he’d assembled 

and smiled to himself

knowing his future

would not follow any plan.