Friday, August 1, 2014

One Hour and 57 Minutes Long

       US death row inmate Joseph Wood has died after an execution in Arizona took nearly two hours to kill him.


   Paradox is a luxury

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

But paradox is a luxury,

in poetry as in life,
except for its one hilarious application --
which you can bet is thick and snarled, and simply
twisted -- when you wait on death row, to die.

Yes, I have to specify "to die,"
honor-bound to those
who just don't believe it,
can't fathom it, and
who never see it coming.

(They think, too, that the moon walk
happened on a studio stage)
Their knees don't jangle as they stroll
all lanky and slack-jawed
down some last hall
to some studio-staged
final production, with gurneys
and men who don't look
you in the eye.

Oh, thick, snarled, and twisted -- that paradox
with a punchline that strains to win
before some other voice --
a preacher man, a governor --
sucks the perfect practiced laughter
into the pure static of white noise,
a vacuum, a saw, a toothed edge,
a just-out-of-range radio station,
offshore  -- some foreign language.

But if whispered the way Mama did,
way back before you can remember,
just at the beginning of some night's humid rest,
your sweaty head on her soft breast --
should that privilege of comfort's
remembrance  not be one
you've molested or stabbed
or drowned, or otherwise lost,
should that sweet rest still exist,
should sleep still mean sleep,
with its promise of waking,
and should open eyes still really see?

well, then bless your rapid heart, and bless
your wicked bones, because it's just like going
to sleep, washed clean and all-forgiven,
jammies fresh from the dryer,
stray cotton strands stink, almost burnt --
mama was useless, really,
couldn't do a damn thing right,
never bothered to scrape the thick
mass of nasty felt from the lint trap
the lazy bitch --

If not forgiven, at least,
you'll make up for it
tomorrow ["i promise and
i swear," she whispers
over your damp curls, now
a patterned part of her torn gown]
because you'll wake
with that forever
soapy floral scent,
no acrid smells,
no burnt flesh.

We'll need skin toner, rubbing alcohol,
(though wouldn't witch hazel be nice?)
new razors, for you, my baby,
with lotioned strips, and three, four blades,
sponges, loofahs, rubber bands,
a tourniquet, a cannula, a steady hand,
some pretty scalloped-
edged pink paper tape, and wipes
to sanitize our hands, and child,
smell the mix of lotion with my sweat,
and pump your fist to make those veins
stand up.

Dream of tomato sandwiches clotting on white bread
as we slap our knees, lined up in nantucket rockers
on someone's perfect sea front porch and
laughing, hear us whisper:

"It's just like going to sleep."

© 2013 L. Ryan

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