Calm and clear-eyed,

She stood on the auction block.

Her name was Immortality.

The train of her dress,

Never seemed to end.

“Anyone give a soul?”

The auctioneer cried.

Wisdom had just gone

For a trifling sum.

A bidder with cloudy eyes

Held up two

Very greasy fingers.

“Two souls?”

The auctioneer’s face

Creased into a smile.

The greasy-fingered

Man mumbled,

“No, two hearts.”

“Fie, hearts! Fickle things.”

“Half-a-soul then.”


The auctioneer

Was not smiling.

“I couldn’t buy

Even a pint

For half-a-soul.”

“I’ve already spent

My other half-soul

To the tavern

Down the street.”


The bidder’s companion

Gave a sneer.

“You’ve been taken,”

He crowed.

“Those taverns never

Take less than

A whole soul.”

The bidder gave

A lazy shrug

And stared

At the bottom

Of his empty cup.

“I’ll take nothing less

Than a whole soul.

Around the auctioneer

Women stood in half-circles,

Like crescent moons

Men sat on whiskey barrels,

With more whiskey

In their hand.

Tears gathered in


Very blue eyes.

Was there no one

Who was willing to

Pay an entire soul?

“Me, me, me!”

Said a high voice

The half circle

Orbited around

A small boy.


He raised one

Very greasy finger.

“I’ve gotta whole soul!

Ain’t spent it yet.”

It was the brother

Of the girl

Who had paid

A full soul

For Wisdom.

No full-grown

Man or woman

Was willing to pay.

The auctioneer

Was growing tired.

He had hoped

For a full-grown man

To give a full soul.

But even a child’s soul

Was better than nothing.

“Don’t do it boy,”

The greasy men urged.

“You’ve not even paid

For your first pint.”

“You’re a nice boy,”

The women said.

“Too nice to be

Cheated so young.”

The small boy

Gave a laugh.

“I don’t care if

I can’t afford a pint. 

Long after

You’ve drunk the dregs,

I’ll have Immortality.”