"Dishonorable Trade" By Elizabeth Sackett

the rain chills him to the marrow.
he is meant to be human, not humane,
and the potential of the axe
is resting, for now,
on the scaffold.

a lady’s head is bowed
as she steps forward to the crowd,
the weather darkening her hair,
weighing her crown.
the man can see
the vertebrae of her spine,
the cold pale way
they extend from her neck
like a twisting fish.

it’s easier that way,
he knows,
the hair up so that the strands
don’t snake and snag the blade
but even after a decade
of this dishonorable trade,
the softness of the back of a neck
disconcerts him.

maybe it’s because of his child,
the way she curls against his wife at night,
her dark curls
flickering, insubstantial,
in candlelight,
the sweet smell
at her nape.

there’s nothing childlike
in the woman before him.
the words she speaks to
the people
soak up the rain like paper
and fold, but he is certain
they must be noble.
she turns
and there are creases by
her eyes. he has seen panic
and there is nothing alien
in her resigned desperation,
a shudder in her lip
and a twisting in her hands.

to him, a coin
resting in her restless
do you
forgive me,
he says.

with her response
she ghosts her nails
across her throat
before kneeling
before a stone bed
and flinging her arms
like a bird.

the coin is cold and wet.
into his pocket
it goes,
and it shall be played with
by small hands
later, the metal
the mystery of
and his child
shall laugh,
the sound full
in her body,
traveling from
a filled stomach
to a throat,
and bursting
but these are thoughts
for a different time.

the axe
he’s already received
for this potential sin
and the skin
on the back of the lady’s neck
for a moment,
with life.


Elizabeth Sackett earned a degree in English with a writing concentration from SUNY Geneseo, where she received the Lucy Harmon Award for Fiction Writing and was published in Gandy Dancer. Highly involved with her local live poetry scene, she has also recently been published in Gravity Of The Thing and Fickle Muses. She spends her spare time drawing pictures of bird skeletons.

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