The Execution of John Billington

David Roderick

That was it: the rope pulling taut, his spine jerking.
Neck-burn, the end of the brilliant, breathing thing

that was his body. Brawn shocked from his head,
black beard tangled, his sockets choked with blood.

We almost left him hanging: a drunken rogue,
a Stranger who worshipped nothing but waterdogs

at the banks of the river that coursed through his art.
We almost left him hanging: his throat cut with weight,

his limbs stiff-quick: steles of rock, numb nerves.
His head was a green room, or perhaps a nave

laced with blooms. To him, his body was a cloud.
His pulse: a trail of footprints fading in the woods.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro
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DAVID RODERICK was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University for 2002-2004. His poems have recently appeared in Boulevard, Florida Review, Gulf Coast, and Notre Dame Review.