'Conversation with a Decommissioned Electric Chair' by Samuel Wagan Watson | States of Poetry QLD - Series Two

Circa September, 2015
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

I first admired your arms, brown and unrefined like mine, the scars and veins unhidden. Straight
back. Strong neck. An inanimate object that would never be caught slouching. I pay
acknowledgement: you were always professional and executed your charge efficiently...
in the end.

But what say you of right or wrong? Guilty or not guilty? That you know that I know that hardwood
is a memory-medium. The acoustic resonance of a final whimper and breath may haunt your joints,
limbs, and possibly persuade a vibration of inconsequential requiem...
in the end.

In the servitude and the conditioning, the extreme prejudice, the fact that no one except the killer
and the victim know the truth ... Does a confessional simmer into your timbers on the last moments
of your charge’s rapture? If the crimes fit the punishment, you only respond one way anyway and
know not reverse, even for the slightest mitre of compassion. And is any of it relevant in the final
seating arrangements of judges and assassins and lambs...leaving one to ask this of
a decommissioned electric chair ... in the end.

‘If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be punishment-as well as the prison.’
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment.

Samuel Wagan Watson