Join us for a live zoom reading from Ron Egatz and Matthew Caley in our new occasional ‘Live from the Butchery’ series, hosted by Helen Ivory and Martin Figura from their home. The reading will take place on Sunday 26th July, 4pm GMT, 11am EDT. (Email Kate at email@example.com for details on how to Zoom in!)
A Family Trade
—Albert Pierrepoint, hangman, 30 March 1905 – 10 July 1992
As the middle child, there were problems.
Not enough parental attention, thus
Albert’s drive to join his father and uncle
in the family trade. Even at eleven
he wrote, I should like to be the Official Executioner.
At least 435 pairs of feet Albert dropped
the door from beneath. It was a job—
who kept count? Some seemed nonplussed
to go—Cheerio! said one. Others,
almost starstruck on seeing the famous
hangman: Mr. Pierrepoint, I’ve always
wanted to meet you. Though not, of course,
under these circumstances.
Twenty-six times he flew to Germany
and Austria to execute over
200 war criminals. For this he
was called a war hero, but attention
by the press was not desired. Hangmen
were told to be extremely discreet
and to conduct themselves
in a respectable manner.
Albert resigned in 1956 over nonpayment
for a last minute-cancelled execution.
It was a business (family business, though
father and uncle long-dead), and he
expected payment for his time.
Twenty years after retirement he said,
Oh, I could go again.
435 of his colleagues could not.
Ron Egatz is a poet, fiction writer, and jump blues guitarist. He has won the Glimmer Train Poetry Award, the Greenburgh Poetry Award and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Beneath Stars Long Extinct, a collection of poems, was published by Red Hen Press. Egatz was formerly employed as a director of television adverts, summons server, undergraduate professor, catalog designer, journalist, taxi driver, and forklift operator. He is currently working on a nonfiction book about writing. A poet widely published in literary reviews and anthologies, Egatz teaches writing privately one-on-one while living reclusively in a Hudson River Valley loft co-op for artists with his puggle Bijou.
and the strop-razor
against my testicles then
grazing my perineum
as might make an initiate
draw in their very breath but
I see Countess Dolingen of Gratz
pining over a corpse in
the Schlosspark Mausoleum
as The Id pines for pleasure.
And while the razor is blunt
my mind is sharp with thoughts of
Comptesse Dolingen of Gratz
as the filter-elms turn green,
the people dappled-green on the Alexanderplatz
almost on the verge of love.
There is no such word as ‘can’t’.
Matthew Caley’s Thirst [Slow Dancer, 1999] was nominated for The Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Since then he’s published five more collections – the last three with Bloodaxe. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies. He is a tutor/mentor for The Poetry School in London, has recently been Associate Lecturer in Contemporary Poetry/Creative Writing at The School of English, St Andrews University and HPL at the University of Winchester. He gave the StAnza 2020 Lecture in March. His 6th collection Trawlerman’s Turquoise was published by Bloodaxe in 2019.