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Fein, Richard, 1944- / The required accompanying cover letter: poetry
(2011)

A question of thirteen seconds,   pp. 39-40


Page 39

A Question Of Thirteen Seconds
"After your head is cut off by a guillotine
you have 13 seconds of consciousness...
13 seconds is the amount of... energy..
in the brain to keep going... not only can you blink,
but you can do two for yes and one for no;
and it is said to have been done. "
Dr. Ron Wright, Chief Medical Examiner of Broward County, Florida
Now no pardon is possible even from God.
Now the wind in the lungs will be forever stagnant.
Now the lungs themselves will dissolve.
Now the Platonic ideal of mind free of body is almost realized.
What is proper etiquette for you-the executioner
when all the condemned's debts have just been paid?
What to do for the already but not yet dead
at this socially awkward moment?
Are you, at last, forgiving?
Do you pick up the head by the hair
Do you stroke a pale cheek?
Do you allow a loved one to approach and kiss?
Do you hold a mirror before the eyes?
Do you torture the eyelids with a question?
There is time for one.
What would you want to know?
Does the being at your feet know the answer?
Or does even the faintest consciousness blind one to what comes after?
And what comes after-is it midnight darkness or high noon blaze?
Do you ask if it's comfortable?
Is it now reduced to being only an it?
39


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