Kara Candito


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.