“The Place of Man” tells how a man and a woman talk through the night and make love. The man listens to his partner, thinks of what she says, and lies awake at night while she sleeps by his side. He thinks of the injustices of the world, and how they are mankind’s wrongs to be righted—no one else’s. Its rhyme scheme is simply abab.
There are moths circling the patio light
As she talks to him of justice and love.
His drink is sweating in the warm night,
And his skin is cool beneath the stars above.
She talks of rats in the WFP food, of dogs behind doors.
She speaks of fake soldiers in military dress,
And of real, live, wretched, short-skirted whores.
She talks, and he listens with no feeling or stress.
Somewhere, somewhere, she is telling him,
There ought to be virtue and decency.
Somewhere, here perhaps, she says again,
There ought to be a merciful society.
Still the moon shines high up in the sky.
He thinks that it’s a quarter of a million miles away.
There the stars tremble before his very eyes,
So far off that they’ll be lost come day.
And, of course, she’s right. So very right.
And if he could take all the world’s ills
And burn them, in a blaze to light the night,
Then he would, and damn the stars, the moon, the night’s chills.
For just a single night, if he could, he’d turn it all to day,
And like some great seething god, set the world aright,
And leave the good folk in a better way,
Then so he would. But no one has such might.
Late that night, they fall to making love.
And after it is over, and she lies curled,
He thinks that it is not the role of god above,
But man’s sole sphere, to better rule this world.