"The Killing"

George Elliott Clarke

Rue:  I ingratiated the grinning hammer

with Silver’s not friendless, not unfriendly skull.

Behind him like a piece of storm, I unleashed a frozen glinting –

a lethal gash of lightning.

His soul leaked from him in a Red Sea, a Dead Sea,

churning his clothes to lava.


Geo:  No, it didn’t look like real blood,

but something more like coal, that inched from his mouth.


Rue:  It was a cold hit in the head.  A hurt unmassageable.

Car seat left stinking of gas and metal and blood.

And reddening violently.

A rhymeless poetry scrawled his obituary.


Geo:  It was comin on us for awhile, this here misery.

We’d all split a beer before iron split Silver’s skull.

Silver’s muscles still soft and tender.  That liquor killed him.

The blood like shadow on his face, his caved-in face.

Smell of his blood over everything.


Rue:  Iron smell of the hammer mingled with iron smell of blood

and chrome smell of snow and moonlight.


Geo:  He had two hundred dollars on him; bootleg in him.

We had a hammer on us, a spoonful of cold beer in us.


The taxi-driver lies red in the alabaster snow.

His skeleton has taken sick and must be placed in the ground.


This murder is 100 per cent dirt on our hands.


Rue:  Twitchy, my hand was twitchy, inside my jacket.

The hammer was gravity:  everything else was jumpy.

I wondered if Silver could hear his own blood thundering,

vermilion, in his temples, quickened, twitchy, because of beer;

jumpy molecules infecting his corpuscles, already nervous.


The hammer went in so far that there was no sound –

just the slight mushy squeak of bone.


Silver swooned like the leaden Titanic.

Blood screamed down his petit-bourgeois clothes.


Geo:  Can we cover up a murder with snow?

With white, frosty roses?


Rue:  Here’s how I justify my error:

The blow that slew Silver came from two centuries back.

It took that much time and agony to turn a white man’s whip

into a black man’s hammer.


Geo:  No, we needed money,

so you hit the So-and-So,

only much too hard.

Now what?


Rue:  So what?


This poem has been placed at the Science East Museum in downtown Fredericton. 

Source:  Clarke, George Elliott.  Execution Poems:  The Black Acadian Tragedy of "George and Rue."      Gaspereau Press, 2001.

Photo credit to B S K via FreeImages.com: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/hopeless-1188692