Last Things by Ciaran Parkes

Last Things

Mid-fifties London, the world outside is spinning
from ration books to free love, rock and roll.
The condemned prisoner, not long out of school,
is listening to a radio show and winning

another game of cards. He never loses,
indulged as some sick child who’ll never mend,
no lost games or angry words offend
his last unraveling days. He chooses

tomorrow’s meal. The chaplain comes to call
and softly talk his sins away. He walks
one final time across the withered stalks
of winter grass, beneath the high stone wall,

hearing the city going by outside. He sleeps
one last time, or tries to sleep, and must
have drifted off somehow because a burst
of voices wake him. The hurried breakfast creeps

with dreadful slowness. Calming words are spoken
by the guards. A door he never knew
about slips open. The hangman and his two
assistants come in on silent feet. He’s taken

by the elbows, half lifted off the ground,
and glided backwards through the waiting door,
a hood pushed on his head, and up the four
steps to the wooden platform. He hears the sound

of birds begin to wake, feels something lop
soft round his neck, then hears a muffled prayer
go speeding past his face, then the rush of air
as breath leaves him behind, the final drop.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: This poem is both shocking and beautifully written. The rhyme and meter unobtrusively hold the narrative together until the ending creeps up and stuns the reader at the very end.

One thought on “Last Things by Ciaran Parkes

  1. Beautifully written. A soothing elegiac quality to the first stanzas allows the horrifying conclusion to come on soft feet and land with the shock of that final breath.

    Liked by 1 person

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