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,
But 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.
And 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 fallen 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 did not die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.
by James Patrick Kinney (1923-1974),
“The Cold Within” is a poem holding a mirror up to humanity, showing us how divided we are. Interestingly enough, the poem had been written in the ’60s, yet it still fits today -perhaps even more now. We have gotten so much worse. Eighty years later, and we haven’t learned a thing.
The message of the poem is a simple one, if we keep discriminating against each other, it will not end well. The title of the poem is metaphorical, reminding us of all the negative attributes we human beings possess. The coldness within us, our minds frozen, our hearts cold as ice.