My executions begin at 10 P.M.
and end with dawn.

I sit under the royal oak
raising most, condemning few
with an inaudible whisper to my guard—
these six years, these sixteen years…
it doesn’t matter, the count was lost.

Besides the necessity to keep awake,
what is life without the relief of love?
Love to the mind is wind to the sea—
a saintly, two-tongued wife….
I too have loved—an incumbent husband
all wives can imagine dead.

These days when I give judgment,
I look spruce and unchanging,
I wear a fine suit of gold—
two slaves to fan me
and carry me in a huge armchair
shaking in their hands,
as I count the steps downward
from my throne: 25, 24, 23.

I escape…everything,
intermittently. I forget
my intolerable, metallic heat,
my distrusted gaiety the day
I decided to decline…and live.
I can point out myself, the culprit,
with my palsied, pedagogic scepter.

Night executions spare me
the agony of early rising.

This Issue

July 14, 1977