The Execution by Alden Nowlan
On the night of the execution
a man at the door
mistook me for the coroner.
“Press,” I said.
But he didn’t understand. He led me
into the wrong room
where the sheriff greeted me:
“You’re late, Padre.”
“You’re wrong,” I told him. “I’m Press.”
“Yes, of course, Reverend Press.”
We went down a stairway.
“Ah, Mr. Ellis,” said the Deputy.
“Press!” I shouted. But he shoved me
through a black curtain.
The lights were so bright
I couldn’t see the faces
of the men sitting
opposite. But, thank God, I thought
they can see me!
“Look!” I cried. “Look at my face!
Doesn’t anybody know me?”
Then a hood covered my head.
“Don’t make it harder for us,” the hangman whispered.
“The Execution” by Alden Nowlan, from Selected Poems. © Anansi Press Limited, 1996.
from The Writer’s Almanac for May 26, 2011
Alden Albert Nowlan (January 25, 1933 – June 27, 1983) Canadian poet, novelist, and playwright was born into rural poverty in Nova Scotia.
“His father, Gordon Freeman Nowlan, was a manual labourer, his mother, Grace Reese, only 15 years old when Nowlan was born, left him and his younger sister in the care of their paternal grandmother. The family discouraged education as a waste of time, and Nowlan stayed in school for four grades.
Each weekend from when he was 16, he’d walk or hitchhike eighteen miles to the library to get books, and secretly educated himself.
I wrote (as I read) in secret.” Nowlan said, “My father would as soon have seen me wear lipstick.“