Excerpt from "Night Work Three Accounts/Ruth Snyder" by Lawrence Wray

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


3/    Remnant

What happened to her dress?
Was it incinerated?
Was there smoke that lifted
above the prison yard,
because it clothed her body? —
a gauzy texture to the air,
faint threads unraveling
the morning after
from a chimney pipe,
and not clearing on a breeze
but fluttering close
to the ground, entangling legs
of prisoners out for sunlight,
on schedule, by the walls.

α

Was her dress wrapped
in butcher paper,
bound with twine for her mother
to claim within a few days? —
its tart odors and stains,
like the Shroud of Turin,
bearing a memory of the ritual
destruction of a life.
Had it become a relic, whose
presence induces a trance
of worshipful silence,
the hood pulled over Mary
Surratt’s face — if it existed still,
the dress would resemble
the empty road to the prison,
its scuff of litter and dust.

α

Her dress would resemble
the mute, astringent room,
his technique
of two thousand volts
for three seconds, and five
hundred for the remainder
of the first minute.

It would resemble a letter
she wrote to her daughter,
Lorraine — was it given to her
in a box with her mother’s
spare effects, one day
when she was old
enough to understand?

Had it become a remnant
last image of the light-bruised
body, the dress a span
of lapsing wakefulness
or moment of seared mind,
it would be a blankness
from which a voice begins
to flesh, a gulping for
breath, her restrained fits
crawling over the dress,
fire ants when she was gone
already and Lorraine was ten.


Lawrence Wray has been published in a variety of online and print journals, including the best of edition of Cider Press Review, Crab Orchard Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Sentence, and Dark Horse Review. His full-length collection of poems, The Night People Imagine, was a finalist last year for the Patricia Bibby Prize at Tebot Bach Press.