As an exercise for Margo Roby’s Tuesday’s tryouts,, we were to come up with a list of poetic counterparts. As a joke, I included a list of the methods of capital punishment. Then, it wouldn’t let it go. I had to write this, but I started with the intent to compare the efficiency(?) of the methods, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I get this, and it’s the first poem I’ve ever written that scares me. It frightens me that something like this lived within me. I had to get it out so that I can go back and complete a poem from a less drastic counterpoint on my list.

by Mike Patrick

Flickr image by rinpoche

Ah, the days of spectacle;
the last tumbrel ride,
laughter and screams
echoing in the courtyard.

The slow plod of the oxen
pulling the peasants’ cart,
bringing me my beloved,
bound and slobbering in fear.

So precious, that fear
when first they see me
leaning against the dark stained block;
edge, keen and freshly honed,

shining in the sun.
The thud of a hundred feet,
stomping in unison,
mocks the sweetness of my coming fall.

Wrestled from the cart
and bound across my bloody block,
the condemned no longer screams.
Acceptance comes at last.

My comrade, in his cowl and mask,
lifts me gently off the ground.
With a soft caress
he strokes my oaken length,

as once again, the crowd goes wild.
His muscles flex,
I rise high,
and silence takes control.

I split the air
as down I fall
in exhilaration;
ending in a satisfying . . .chunk.

I take my bows
as my comrade holds me aloft.
Amid cheers and applause
a sweet, metallic aroma fills the air.

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  1. Mike, this is indeed frightening, though, it is very well-written. I have had discussions with my husband in the past as to which form of capital punishment is the least painful i.e. hanging, electric chair, gas chamber… I have no answer to a form of punishment I don’t agree with.


  2. margo roby says:

    Good heavens. I can see why you might have been startled. Yet, think about all you have read, all you have seen, all you have watched, all you have experienced. Yes? I think your new openness to poetry has unlocked a level of memory you maybe haven’t accessed before. And, every now and then something will rise unbidden from the depths, not always quite so dark, perhaps. I would be willing to bet that at some point in your life, perhaps quite young, you were enthralled [depending on your age…] or appalled by a description of this event happening, and it has lain there waiting for a hook to pass by. I have quite a wall up against such hooks, which I realise is not to my advantage, but it is where I need to be.


  3. Morning says:

    This is lovely.


  4. mbwilliams says:

    A great story all about death…from an unusual perspective!

  5. Oooo yuck!
    When I wrote my wordle on Tale ot two cities. I researched the guillotine and axe etc and it seems the guillotine was invented as a more ‘humane’ way of killing someone rather than having their heads chopped off with an axe. Apparently, with an axe it was very rare for it to work with one blow. How a=awful for the person and, I also read that the family members used to pay the axeman more for a sharpened blade so that their loved one might die on the first blow. However it happened it was all so grotesque.
    What a great, dark gruesome read from you, no wonder you wanted to get it out!

  6. vivinfrance says:

    I’m not surprised that the poem frightens you. What does astonish me is your clever use of the pov of the blade. Your progress as a poet is nothing short of impressive.

  7. I’ve read a lot about the days when this was common, and thought the punishment was cruel, the most horrifying part of it all was the fact it was almost considered entertainment to the crowds that gathered to watch. Excellent write about a ghastly subject!

  8. magicalmysticalteacher says:

    If the executioner’s axe could talk, this is surely what it would say!

    My Contribution

  9. 1sojournal says:

    Wow! I’m with Margo on this one. It has been buried a long time, but when it broke lose and made its way to the surface, it wouldn’t be denied. Excellent writing Mike and I congratulate you on staying with it and bringing it to completion.


  10. Well, Anne Boleyn choose the axe as her execution because she feared the other choice, which was to be burned to death. I guess it is a matter of degree. What seems most frightening is the presentation of the victim as the beloved of the axe. Very effective poem.


  11. That is chilling and wonderfully written.

  12. Hi, just to let you know I nominated you for this award:
    Versatile Bloggers Award

  13. geri-Mom says:

    i’m a little worried about myself, after reading your comments and other readers comments. I loved it! And I didn’t find it chilling…I found it..interesting and brilliant…I think I have to re-examine my own dark side! Because I really like yours.

  14. terri0729 says:

    Yeah, you scared me too Mike! lol. Actually, this is very well written and just in time for Halloween too. Blessings, Terri

  15. Ina says:

    Ouch. Good poem!

  16. poetryroad says:

    Oh my…what a tale! Loved it because it was not only suspenseful but incredibly creative!

  17. This scared me too Mike! They were barbaric times. I like the personification of the axe. Well written.

  18. wow this is an excellent write what is it about execution that people love to come and see. The hanging, electric chair and even chopping off the head I think if someone was to die I would not want to go and see this but you did an excellent job and this poem is wonderful

  19. I think this is an exceptional poem – such a viewpoint! It gives a completely new perspective on the whole execution debate. I like the irony of the objective view being absent from the object – the axe.

  20. CC Champagne says:

    Fantastic, amazing, excellent…! I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said! *smile* Brutal imagery that works on so many levels!

  21. Jack Edwards says:

    Vivid poem. Great use of enjambment. Perhaps used to echo an image of a head severed from shoulders?

    Here is my entry:

  22. Mike, you once wrote to me in response to one of my poems: “What you said. How does one do that?” After reading this wonderful poetic “execution”, I believe you have answered and know very cleverly “how one does that!”

  23. Classic NYer says:

    This is an awesome and chilling poem.

  24. Very interesting prompt for a poem. Well done.


  25. i love poems about someone who we are not

  26. Cherlyn says:

    Wow, this is amazing! I love it – makes me sound morbid doesnt it? I love it because it is well written, and sometimes it’s good to pull out something from inside of us that frightens us – i believe in constructively exploring the dark reaches of our souls.

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Here’s mine for the rally:

  27. Andy says:

    This is indeed brutal, but you’ve penned it quite masterfully.
    If writing helps to free you from the ghosts that haunt you, then keep writing.

    Very well done, my friend!

    Yesterday With You

  28. thoroughly enjoyed it.

  29. I don’t think this is chilling; it appeals greatly to my love for the macabre and I love the way it’s written. It’s easy to imagine yourself watching the execution from a crowd.

  30. Pingback: Unrequited Love – Sestina « California Ink in Motion

    • Mike Patrick says:

      I’m glad to see you typing again. Hope the arm is okay. I’m looking forward to some new posts on your blog.

      Thank you for nominating me, but I’m not much on awards unless its the Pulitzer or the Nobel.

  31. Hauntingly beautiful. And a great idea!

  32. Yikes, Mike. You really created the scene with vivid detail. Even the smell of blood. Really well-written. Victoria

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