Death Row

I get up once in a while & peer
out of the grilled window. †
On a piece
of wellkept lawn 5 sparrows cheekily
(not a thought between them) squabble- making
jabbing darts at each other over a lump of bread
the governor's wife yesterday graciously threw them.

I've been many years in this cell: or is it
a couple of weeks
? or hours? minutes?
I cannot remember whether it's me or
the warder will shortly be hanged
& when
the governor the priest & the fat man with
the calculating black & beady eyes enter
I shout angrily to the guards: 'These are the 3!
Truss them & gag them. Hurry them onto the trap.
This instant death will be much too quick for them!'

I remember how the murderers taunted the victim,
made him dig his own grave,
swung knives & cutlasses at him,
chipping bits as if he were a pig or an ox,
& when he was semiconscious having lost 4 pints of blood
they pushed him flat & shovelled a huge heap of earth
heavily on him.

(There was a loud knock on the door :
'This is the Tuesday I mentioned last Thursday,'
the hangman shouted sharply thru the grill at me.
It's 7.30
Get up quickly & wash.
Your presence is instantly required at once
in the cell at the far end of the block! )
The procession of 3
the governor, priest & warder marched unsteadily
2 or 3 paces ahead of me. I laughed noting the beady
eye of the hangman professionally measuring them...


This man is obviously confused & probably mad.

His period of confinement, he thinks, could equally be years or minutes. He's now convinced his crime was committed in fact by the prison governor, the priest, & either the hangman or one of the warders.

When he sees the hangman ‘measuring’ the others, he believes very happily that this observation has clearly resolved the problem.



† Ritual murderer.