Here’s a fascinating quote from a book I’m reading, Nabokov’s biography, Nikolai Gogol (New Directions). It’s about Zhukovsky, a 19th century Russian poet and a friend of Gogol’s. “Zhukovsky expounded certain favorite ideas of his regarding the improvement of the world, such as for instance the transformation of capital punishment into a religious mystery with the hanging performed in a closed church-like place to the elevated sounds of hymns, all this invisible to the kneeling crowd, but auditorially very beautiful and solemn and inspiring—one of the reasons Zhukovsky gave for the adoption of this remarkable ritual being that the enclosure, the curtains, the rich voices of the clergy and choir (drowning any unseemly sound) would ‘prevent the condemned man from treating onlookers to a sinful display of swaggering and pluck in the face of death.’” I am 100% against capital punishment, but if we are going to do it, at least it could be more soulful.


Here are some orphaned fragments that have been living in my notebook for months, awaiting a foster poem to move into:

[Let’s go down to the gallows and watch the feet of the hanged man run their course.]

[Holidays are when you turn off the phone, break out the family voodoo dolls from the liquor cabinet, and pray for a doctor to materialize.]

[Hotel mini-bars are stocking Viagra. Men are getting in touch with their inner Niagara.
Look at me, with all this pine. I’m a love machine with a pharmaceutical spine.]

[I am going to the store, and I am going there stag.]

[The human is the rare plant needing to be watered inside as well as out, all the while swearing self-sufficiency.]

[Awkward is a seventh grade girl playing Spin the Bottle with her classmates
and noticing her uncle’s fingerprints on the glass.]

[I wish there was a special mirror where you could see yourself as others see you, or
sunglasses that make you see people the way they wish to be seen.]

[If feelings were permanent, tears would stain our clothing like blood.]

[Smoking is the most popular form of dying for what you believe in.]

[Poland is just one big ethnic neighborhood.]

[Reality is a junkie looking for a vein in the haystack of his arm.]

[On the outside of a milk carton is the name and face of a missing child. On the inside of the carton is printed the child’s whereabouts.]

Originally Published: May 17th, 2006

Jeffrey McDaniel is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Chapel of Inadvertent Joy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). Other books include The Endarkenment (Pittsburgh, 2008), The Splinter Factory (Manic D, 2002), The Forgiveness Parade (Manic D Press, 1998), and Alibi School (Manic D, 1995). His poems have...