The Last Supper
Smoked salmon on buttered bread, a steak brushed
with olive oil and turned twice over a roaring fire,
a pear poached in red wine. Or oysters, Dover sole,
lemon ice with a shot of vodka. It doesn’t have
to be fancy: a pizza, say, a couple of glasses
of the house red, an apple. On Death Row,
you can order whatever you like. Timothy McVeigh
asked for two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream,
John Wayne Gacy wanted a dozen shrimp, a bucket
of chicken, french fries. Almost no one orders vegetables.
What’s the point? Nobody thinks of the future.
Well, Sacco and Vanzetti, maybe. They asked
for a poor man’s meal: soup, tea, meat, toast.
Did they know they’d be saints? Or maybe after a lifetime
of being kicked around, they knew not to expect too much.
McVeigh and Gacy thought only of themselves,
as they had when they’d set the bomb, strangled the boys.
Then there’s Victor Feguer, who kidnapped a doctor
and killed him for his drugs. Feguer wanted only
a single olive on a plate, the olive a period at the end
of a sentence, the plate blending with the whiteness
of the tablecloth, the cell walls, the clouds he could see
through the little window, the sheets on the gurney
down the hall. And after that, what? Nobody knows.
You will never kill anyone, yet you could have
this same meal. You, too, could go to your death hungry.
David Kirby’s collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” Kirby’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His latest poetry collection is Get Up, Please.