Academic journal article Antipodes

Hanging

Academic journal article Antipodes

Hanging

Article excerpt

While we wait for the hangman

my grandmother squashes me

against her body, into her single bed

spread with widowwick.

She switches the wireless on

and we wait for Ryan's death.

A radio voice talks us through

his last hours like there's nothing

to be ashamed of. I couldn't have been

more shocked if they'd taken a man

into a courtyard-of-the-people

to publicly lop his limbs;

it drops into the milk of my belly.

I register everything, take notes

for the rest of my life.

So this is what they do,

grown-ups I mean,

this is what they're like

out there in the world.

I'm pressed between the bulk

of my grandmother

and Ryan's looming death.

She knows it will scare me

to meet death for the first time

up close in her bedroom,

allows it anyway.

Her body tells a secret excitement;

breath hot on my nape,

her hold tight,

hands trembling - how vehemently

my mother would disapprove.

My grandmother tries to cosy me,

but her big spoon-woman-body

stifles my small girl-spoon.

She's too close, clings as if 11 years

could save 68 from herself.

The way my grandmother speaks

debones the deed; putting him to death

she says, a soft word,

for putting babies to bed

not the force needed to snap bone,

to break a grown man's neck.

While we wait for the hangman

she tells me that the heart

is not strong enough to pump blood

uphill - you can't sleep on your left side,

the heart could just stop, burst,

its innards splattered

like a plum thrown on hard ground. …

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