the hangman is a compulsive winker!
(or is that a twitch?)
I think he’s trying to con me;
he wants me to think the rope is silk,
that the drop is sweet & short,
the pain is faster that nightfall,
that the end is cleaner than rain
knowing better, I wink back, coyly;
I’m trying to con him into thinking
that my only fears is that of heights,
that my knees aren’t shaking to fall into prayer,
that any fitful gesture could save me
I’m letting him know I know
this final trick of his trade;
that slipknots are for fast get-a-ways
(I’m ready to be freed)
this criminal is a compulsive escaper
Some poet once said ‘All poetry is about death.’ So wether one wants to or not you end up writing about it. This is an ironic, sort of blackly humorous, look at death. It is also a list poem in which I go through the various aspects of the hanging – the rope, the knot, the drop to discount, in a way, the seriousness of each of them.
It is a romanticize take on a horrible fate – the gallant highway man laughing in the face of death, giggling on the gallows. A type of masculine bravery & bravado that I certainly lacked but admired. A bravado than only existed in movies anyway – which is where too many of us learned to be men.
I suspect that pop music played a role in this piece as well. Led Zeppelin’s Gallows Pole, Spooky Tooth’s Hangman Hang My Shell on A Tree; & of course the Incredible String Band’s The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter. Songs that in their way glorified the gristly. At one time homosexuality was a hanging offence.
There’s also a loose plot with the exchange of winks, the slipknot – the escape was planned. What was the relationship between the criminal & the hangman? Winking has a sexual flirtation connotation – is this the way we flirt with death? Flirting to numb the fear & possibly lessen what pain there may be when that end comes. No one escapes.
But this is told from the pov of the to-be-hanged man. In Tarot the Hanged Man is the 12th card of the greater arcana. It is the card of sacrifice for a greater good – of animal nature to duty – a change of attitude toward life. So is the escaper saying no to change, saying no the change the hangman represents? Perhaps saying yes to escape is a change. The next card in the arcana is Death.
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