Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

0314 Executive Decision - Poem by Michael Shepherd

‘Look! now briefly, mortal living head -
As severed from thy now so lifeless limbs
In brief and, who knows, truthful, godly view,
So solemn, oncely, rare - that fleshly instrument
That thou hath used, misused…
And learn this last of life’s live lessons, quick and dread
In these few seconds of a living death…’

So Dean John Donne might have wrung out
that detail, had he known it – tolled
his solemn, tortured, feargod, ringing knell
- had he but known this ‘metaphysical’ quaint fact:

that, when the executioner’s sharp axeblade
slices through your neck with such finality,
the head maintains its human faculties
for eight brief seconds after body falls;

the executioner, it’s said, with great formality, then
takes hold that still-life head by its warm hair,
and turns it round with all solemnity,
to gaze its last repentence or regret
upon its frail accomplice on life’s way;
the gathered audience awed to silent, ice-cold heart..
last freeze-frame photo of an undeveloped film.

This solemn final courtesy of soul to soul
I’ll leave to metaphysicals, to speak life whole.

Comments about 0314 Executive Decision by Michael Shepherd

  • (10/21/2005 3:14:00 PM)

    Jake, I heard it the other day from one of those talking heads on TV....
    and thought, now there's a situation that would appeal to the metaphysical poets...did it have some esoteric symbolism?
    (Report) Reply

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  • Cj Heck (10/21/2005 6:05:00 AM)

    OhmyGod, Michael, I didn't know that...8 seconds. Wonderful poem, however gruesome, but it almost had to be. Well done.
    Warmest regards,
    (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Friday, October 21, 2005

Poem Edited: Saturday, July 15, 2006

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