They beheaded my father this morning – Roger West

George Crabbe Poetry Competition 2022 – 2nd Prize
Adjudicator – Blake Morrison

They beheaded my father this morning.
Someone filmed it on their i phone and downloaded to youtube.
Someone else sent me the link.
I watched it on the subway on the way in to the office,
knowing it’ll barely get a mention on the evening news.

They beheaded my father this morning.
The wicker basket lined with a checked cloth.
Afterwards the warden knelt to gather the four corners
and knot them together
and bore the parcel gently away like a gift for his fairytale grandmother.

They beheaded my father this morning.
People came out from the market to watch.
When it was over they went back to their shopping,
filling their baskets with tomato, yam, marrow, papaya.
They beheaded my father this morning.

His work finished, the executioner drank his coffee in a nearby cafe.
Unmasked now in anonymity
but still recognisable by his stench.
They beheaded my father this morning.
And now I have to write to let people know.

I hesitate over which verb to use:
the functional ‘beheaded’,
the more classical ‘decapitated’
or the unspecific ‘executed’,
but opt in the end for something befitting the casual brutality.

They chopped my father’s head off this morning.
Now who will drive my poor mother to the funeral?

Copyright © 2022 Roger West


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