About the poet
George Elliott Clarke is a skillful, candid writer whose output incorporates poetry, screenplays...
This poem is about the crime that sent George and Rufus Hamilton to the gallows in Fredericton, New Brunswick, July 27 1949. This poem is called ‘The Killing’ and in this poem I present the voices of Rufus, who is called ‘Rue’, spelled R-U-E, and of course George. The two brothers here reflecting on their crime.
Rue: I ingratiated the grinning hammer
with Silver’s not friendless, not unfriendly skull.
Behind him like a piece of storm, I unleashed a frozen glinting —
a lethal gash of lightning.
His soul leaked from him in a Red Sea, a Dead Sea,
churning his clothes to lava.
Geo: No, it didn’t look like real blood,
but something more like coal, that inched from his mouth.
Rue: It was a cold hit in the head. A hurt unmassageable.
Car seat left stinking of gas and metal and blood.
And reddening violently.
A rhymeless poetry scrawled his obituary.
Geo: It was comin on us for awhile, this here misery.
We’d all split a beer before iron split Silver’s skull.
Silver’s muscles still soft and tender. That liquor killed him.
The blood like shadow on his face, his caved‑in face.
Smell of his blood over everything.
Rue: Iron smell of the hammer mingled with iron smell of blood
and chrome smell of snow and moonlight.
Geo: He had two hundred dollars on him; bootleg in him.
We had a hammer on us, a spoonful of cold beer in us.
The taxi‑driver lies red in the alabaster snow.
His skeleton has taken sick and must be placed in the ground.
This murder is 100 per cent dirt of our hands.
Rue: Twitchy, my hand was twitchy, inside my jacket.
The hammer was gravity: everything else was jumpy.
I wondered if Silver could hear his own blood thundering,
vermilion, in his temples, quickened, twitchy, because of beer;
jumpy molecules infecting his corpuscles, already nervous.
The hammer went in so far that there was no sound —
just the slight mushy squeak of bone.
Silver swooned like the leaden Titanic.
Blood screamed down his petit‑bourgeois clothes.
Geo: Can we cover up a murder with snow?
With white, frosty roses?
Rue: Here’s how I justify my error:
The blow that slew Silver came from two centuries back.
It took that much time and agony to turn a white man’s whip
into a black man’s hammer.
Geo: No, we needed money,
so you hit the So‑and‑So,
only much too hard.
Rue: So what?
from Execution Poems (Gaspereau Press, 2001), © George Elliott Clarke 2001, used by permission of the author and the publisher
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