Execution Poem

For all the killers, including us

If you were being executed,
what do you reckon:
better to be guilty of the crime
for which you will shortly hang
or fry or be shot
or perhaps lethally injected;
or innocent?
Would it make you feel better
as the noose starts to tighten
and you wait for the trap to spring;
or get strapped to the chair
with the electric helmet on your head,
knowing that at any moment
some unseen person will throw the switch
and turn your body to toast
(nor all that quickly either);
or tied to a post,
whether outdoors or in,
with the sun shining or no
(who cares? you’ve got a blindfold on),
maybe with a bull’s-eye over your heart
before the volleys start to fly
and that paper target
also gets torn to shreds
(unless, of course,
it’s simply one clean bullet
in the back of the head;
very tasteful);
or just lying there on a gurney
looking very much like a hospital patient,
but a patient who is scared to death
(ha, ha, that’s a nice little pun,
don’t you think?),
because this is one operation
from which you definitely will not recover…
would you feel better
in such wonderfully harrowing circumstances
knowing in your heart & mind–
heart that will soon stop beating
for good, mind that will…
(we don’t know, for sure,
what happens to the mind, do we?);
knowing that you are (what do they say,
the jackasses who are so thrilled to kill you?)
paying for what you did,
getting your just desserts & all?
Or rather, as you plunge through the floor,
or however you terribly go from here,
go from a life lived well or badly
or lived, as with most of us,
somewhere in between,
go frightfully with pain & fear
into a karmically-disturbed eternity,
knowing instead
you are taking the place of another,
of the person who really did it,
who even now may be laughing their guts out
because you are the fall guy?
Would that make you feel better?
Or would it make any difference at all?
Or can anyone possibly know that
before the moment might come
when the neck snaps
and the shit slurps out
and the genitals sting wet
and…? Oh, damn, I forgot about cyanide,
with those great final gasps
as the gas burns all breath from the lungs.
That’s another great way to say good-bye.
As was the guillotine,
as maybe the garrote still is
(the cold metal collar that gets a touch too tight);
or burning at the stake;
or…take your choice,
there are so many lovely ways to commit murder;
perhaps you can even think up a new one
at the very same moment you horribly die.
Too bad we can’t all try it out
and then come back & decide
if we still want to go on
killing people
who have done something to annoy us,
but annoy us big-time.
Too bad we all can’t swing that way
just once in our too-brief lives
and still hang around a good while longer
and never forget
what it was really like
to go to hell from the gallows.


From the notebooks of Ernesto Levy