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Sing Sing’s Electric Chair, Old Sparky  

We are what we have done…
–Wendell Berry


You didn’t know they were going to shuck down
Death Row’s deadliest killer (supposedly forever)
in 1966. That oak-wooded strapped chair was
the “pay your bills, reaper,” you told the ghosts
nodding around you, oh yes, yes, dawn to dust.
You ignored the others–the grim-faced madmen
who just took up space close by. The truth was
that you’d been ready to take that long walk if your
number was called. You imagined that if those
electrodes were attached to your bald head, it wouldn’t
be that bad. You could’ve taken 2000 volts from
“Old Sparky.” Gone, you would have escaped
the haunting pictures–of those tightly packed stacks
of hypnotizing 100 dollar bills (unmarked) you’d
buried in the Jersey Pines Barrens, a forest. No,
you didn’t tell anyone that you had a gangster’s “mill”
(likely twice that). And not finding your map’s
brick wall and leafwork, nobody would be the wiser.
Wrestling thoughts of bodies you’d left behind,
didn’t tap a nerve. For years, you’d settled in, often
picked the black specks of rat feces out of your
soup, often flushing the tray’s food behind you.
Sure, you’ll eat the orange you’d get every thirty
days to prevent scurry. But that life-ever-lasting
reprieve, maybe, was the cruelest joke. You’d never
forget your markers–the fire-tower, burgundy spring
water, Lady’s Slipper orchids, the unending trails.
You’ve laid the sharp gray stones with precision,
pointing them like arrows to your hidden treasure.
Over the seasons, on the most titillating of nights,
you’d wonder why your body just couldn’t smoke
and burn in Old Sparky’s arms. It was bittersweet.
You were the richest man inside the towering brick
walls above the Hudson. And now, in your forest cell,
you sit on your tree stump, enjoying the thick green
leafs, winter snowflakes, dreamy rays of light. You’re
tallying to the dollar, whether you’re dead or alive.



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