To the voice of the retired warden of Huntsville Prison (Texas death chamber)

By Averill Curdy Averill Curdy

Until wolf-light I will count my sheep,
       Adumbrated, uncomedic, as they are.
       One is perdu, two, qualm, three
                           Is sprawl, four, too late,

Night is already a thirsty county in Texas,
                            Salt flat and unremitting
        Blacktop dry as my mouth,
        And your elastic vowels, my genial,

                            My electric ghost, my
        Radio’s lonely station. Because the spectacle
Of suffering corrupts us, all punishments
        Are now executive, offstage.

        Most presume you a fable:
        Echoes of approaching bootheels
That harry labyrinths of concrete corridors,
                           Or hooded in burlap.

                           We are convicted
        As we are also pardoned: He cherished
        His lawn, or afterwards he covered
The victim’s face. You make no judgments

        Yourself. Only in bursal tones,
                           Tactful as the file box
That shows, if opened, the neon, pleading heart
        Of Jesus wrapped in barbed wire,

You perform penalties others have scripted, so
                           Untroubled by so many.
        How long I have listened to you
        For news of the opal distances,
Or rain to freshen the morning’s arrival.
        What keeps me awake? Nothing
        More than a fly’s dysenteric violin.
                              What puts me to sleep

        Is your clement voice, saying
The dark has no teeth. While men like you live
                             In this world do I dream
          I am either safe or spared?

Source: Poetry (June 2009).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2009
 Averill  Curdy

Biography

A lyric poet influenced by Donne, Hopkins, Merrill, and Auden, Averill Curdy notes, “In my own work, the aural quality and weight of words is very important and I think it’s partly an attempt to make them feel as material as the smears of color on a painter’s palette.” Her meditative, dense lines are smoothed by time; as Curdy explains, “I write slowly—always, it seems, at the very limit of what I know.”

Curdy began to write . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Religion, Faith & Doubt, Christianity, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment, Life Choices

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.