Frankie’s Poem (ballad form)

Die with it in you, were the words he cried
and so I bent voiceless to that noose,
tighter round my neck than ever my tongue was tied,
keeping secret what other women loosed.

The words they say I sang were never mine.
If I could not tell why I swung that axe,
how could they let me sing a song so fine,
such pretty verse, strung sweet by a hack?

What words could I own, or others know
to speak of the pieces of him they found,
scattered over acres, hidden in holes
I dug shallow, in hard-frozen ground?

I carried those secrets of love, death and birth–
the blood of them heavier than iron
with me into air, and freed into earth,
which takes everything, and learns

All we know and do not speak, my naked
bones not caring what eats fossilized pain
or reads out loud the voice of it,
scribed in the center of old bone.

Based (loosely) on the story of Frankie Silver

This is (kinda) a ballad, poking fun at another ballad.  I stuck true (sort of) to the form, until I broke out of it in the last stanza.

About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
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53 Responses to Frankie’s Poem (ballad form)

  1. AH.. what a grizzly story… like a traditional murder ballad or or broadside… existed here also… Maybe the most famous we sing here is about Elvira Madigan.. that became a film later…

  2. Tony Maude says:

    That’s a really tough story, Susan – and to my mind, it should caution against imposing the death penalty.

    Your poem captures the tragedy of the story well; its injustice comes across clearly in the ballad form, which BTW is often used to write protest songs/poems.

  3. Mary says:

    Whew, an intense write here, Susan. Well penned ballad that makes me want to know MORE of the story.

  4. hypercryptical says:

    Well done Susan and thanks for the signpost to Frankie’s story. I wonder what words she did take to her grave…
    Anna :o]

  5. howanxious says:

    Intense… It was like watching a movie. A strong creation indeed… made me think and see vivid images, I would have rather avoided.

  6. Wow, what a write Susan ~ First to last stanzas are hard-hitting ~ Good work on the form too ~

  7. potterfan97 says:

    “Die with it in you”. I’m certainly dying to know what ‘it’ is 🙂

  8. Well put together. The secret did finally come out, too late though.
    Good story here. Read your reference.

  9. for as inept as I am at reading some of what you write Suz, I read and thought this is a different feel from you, I hiccuped at the last stanza and I had a smile at your comment about breaking out. Nicely written and enjoyed.

  10. Trent Lewin says:

    I don’t know, I had a certain violent femmes song going through my head. Pretty and cool stuff Susan.

  11. Ray Sharp says:

    Good one, true to the old ballads in theme and spirit

  12. claudia says:

    oh heck susan…wonderful work on the ballad…what a story..need to check your link to find out a bit more..

  13. vbholmes says:

    The stuff ballads are made of–a true story, injustice, a sad ending. Very nice.

  14. Great work as always Susan!

  15. Susan says:

    It’s kind of refreshing to hear her voice, though I suspect (even from mine), that too much realism could be the death of ballad.

  16. Lindy Lee says:

    Didn’t Cathy Bates play the starring role in a similar movie/story of revenge?

  17. Lindy Lee says:

    You’re an excellent poet, Susan Daniels…

  18. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) says:


  19. nelle says:

    Ooh, I love the flow of this…

  20. brian miller says: know i am all for a little breaking out of form…
    very well done susan…and i think you capture the feel of what i know of the story
    and intersting thought by the other susan on realism being the death of the battle…

  21. wow sis! You have spun me around and around like that famous scene of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt dancing the waltz Merry Widow. You’ve kept me piqued !

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