First Place | Justice & Mercy Poetry Contest

“Terre Haute, Again”


Two men in a green room, twinned
by the tube that snakes from one man’s 
wrists into the other man’s hands.

One man in a green room, separated
from his brother by a green wall. He is not
a martyr. You saw what he did:
the crying mother, the fiancé
with her swollen belly.
Christ, you said. Christ. 

Your brother in the green room,
this little temple to a pagan god of vengeance.
This is a banal business. His brother hides
behind a wall. Say what you will, 
but throwing stones was more honest.
The hangman had to watch his victims dance to death.
Better an executioner’s axe than a syringe 
of pentobarbital, which they use to put down dogs.

Who is here, at last, to witness this grand triumph of justice
in all its bloody glory? Who has come to watch your brother die 
in this pristine abattoir, writhing to death 
on the bed to which he’s bound? Not the judge,
not the jury, not the victim and not her family.
For all they take, they cannot raise her.
This is the dreary manufacture of another murderer,
a dull accounting of eyes and teeth.

One last call and Pilate washes his hands.

Your brother gulps for air. His body convulses, 
and convulses again.

The silence is less than the sum of its parts.
Another minute and perhaps repentance.
O Lord, have mercy on us.

headshot of Katherine Scott










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