I Want To Live! (1958) Susan Hayward won an Oscar for her performance of a woman wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to die in the gas chamber. Director Robert Wise’s gritty realism is unrelenting in its criticism of capital punishment.
“After being ‘drawn to the place of execution,’ each traitor was to be hanged, then cut down before strangling to death. While still alive, he was then ‘to have his privy parts cut off and burned before his face’ and his bowels ‘taken out and burned,’ before his head would be ‘cut off.’ Lastly, his body was to ‘be quartered, and the quarters set up in some high and eminent place, to the view and detestation of men and to become a prey for the fowls of the air.’” – The Year of Lear by James Shapiro, 128.
Let’s talk about snow instead.
It has gone away from Arkansas
except in the higher elevations
where you can still wash your face in it
and taste the blood, the salt, the ash
from collapsed states.
Even Susan Hayward later admitted
her character might have been complicit in murder.
In a country that values life,
why is there so much killing?
It must be the price of freedom.
Consider the glorious French Revolution.
The first thing they did was liberate the Bastille,
releasing the Marquis de Sade back onto the streets,
and then the revolutionaries started killing each other
because nobody was pure enough to govern.
Nowadays in our age of scientific faith.
DNA testing should solve everything.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and
Illinois Governor George Ryan stopped
the executions until they could be sure
the guilty weren’t there just because of race.
Freedom without responsibility causes murder.
Children take up guns and play at shooting
teachers and classmates at recess in Magnolia Arkansas.
When will they be turned back onto the streets?
Torn and mangled in rough briar —
a muskrat the dogs must have caught last night
under the first and last dusting of winter.
[Disposable Poem March 3, 2016]