The Debtors’ University


The debtors’ university
is such a refined hierarchy;
you start off posh, the Master’s Ward,
and say, ‘Pish, this is not so hard’;
arriving with a trunk of goods,
it’s like the upper neighborhoods;
the ivy league is Marshalsea
with access to a buttery;
perhaps you’ll occupy King’s Bench
and bribe the keeper for a wench;
as long as you have vendibles,
you’ll stay clear of the brass knuckles;
but then, when you’ve spent your last dime,
to the Knight’s Ward, downshift big time;
you pray it’s not at Poultry Street
with lousy beds and scurvy meat;
‘cause here you sell off all your clothes
to keep from shackles and such woes;
but, once you’ve little left to pawn,
Two-Penny Ward you’ll settle on;
a meal’s two shillings, COD,
unless it’s Fleet, then it costs three;
some colleges are nicer than
some others, which will break a man;
perhaps you’ll earn a scholarship
to Wood Street, there you’ll learn by whip;
instead of paying off your loans
you’ll pay to not have broken bones;
and, at the end of your studies,
that is, when you are short of fees,
you’re to The Hole, where charity
is how good eggheads eat for free;
the university of debt
will teach contrition’s alphabet
‘cause only those who learn to beg
can ever hope escape that plague.

Kurtz Finding the 21st century obsolete, Craig Kurtz versifies Restoration plays, illustrated by Anni Wilson. Recent work appears in Bacopa Literary Review, Dalhousie Review and Dream Catcher. Visit for particulars.