The Executioner’s Taking Off
I would like just one season as polite
as Wisconsin, like soaking forever
in a hot bath while other people
wage campaigns against assault weapons
and capital punishment. One writes
to ask if I’m ready for a fight. Another
reminds me there are just twelve hours left.
The cat, mildly abashed, yawns when
Frank calls to say he envies Billy Collins
for being such an excellent capitalist
and besides, the poems are just so readable.
Thomas Edison, also an excellent capitalist,
fed an Asian elephant named Topsy
carrots laced with potassium cyanide
before zapping her with a 6,600-volt current
and capturing the whole thing on film.
Topsy, it is said, died without a trumpet
or a groan, whereas Edison slowly went
deaf and left ten bite-marks in the wood
of his last gramophone. When I think
about how badly he wanted to dance
despite the silence and the failure
of his rubber plantations, approximately
three volts of empathy jolt my body.
In Texas, a man who is scheduled
to die tonight requests brisket
and an orange cream shake from Arby’s.
This chill is very subtle. It is like
biting down on a root vegetable
and tasting the executioner’s glove,
or all the flimsy inner lives of
our innocence. Such quiet ice
scraped from the afternoon’s face.
Kara Candito is the author of Spectator (University of Utah Press, 2014), winner of the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and Taste of Cherry (University of Nebraska Press, 2009), winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Her work has been published in AGNI, The Kenyon Review, jubilat, Drunken Boat, Forklift, The Rumpus, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. Candito is the winner of a Pushcart Prize and the recipient of scholarships and awards from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Council for Wisconsin Writers, the Vermont Studio Center, the MacDowell Colony, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. She is a co-curator of the Monsters of Poetry reading series, the Editor-in-Chief of Driftless Review, and a creative writing professor at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville.