Issue > Poetry
Leonard Kress

Leonard Kress

Leonard Kress's most recent collections are the Orpheus Complex (Main Street Rag, 2009), Thirteens (Aureole Press, 2010), Braids & Other Sestinas (Seven Kitchens Press, 2011), and Living in the Candy Store (Finishing Line Press, 2011). He teaches at Owens College in northwest Ohio.

Elmo

Twelve sharp, they strap Elmo Smith
in the electric chair and poise to flick the switch.
I'm in fifth grade, the middle of math

when the crackly announcement enters the room:
Turn your radio on.... The execution
covered live, as the body sizzles, teacher

orders us to bow heads and rejoice
the evil scourge has been eliminated.
We know what the man with the clown name

has done—raped, tortured, murdered
Mary Ann Mitchell, 17-year old honor student.
Her breasts removed, my friend attests,

two tupperware containers hidden in his trunk.
Reporter repeats ghastly details of the crime,
body found in muddy ditch in Andorra Road

Nursery. Someone asks why it was dumped
at a nursery school. We wonder what our
little brothers and sisters might dig up

in the sand box, might trip over avoiding
touch tag, what the pet goat might be
chomping on. Better not tell them.

Police Chief Mitchell declares the world safe
again for kids. We're certain Mary Ann
was his daughter, even though

teacher laughs it off. That's why he's taken
over as crossing guard, banished our safety
patrol to the parking lot. The special-ed kid,

named Elmer is guarded by his brother Roy
on the blacktop, before and after school.
When it comes time to botch our memorized

Gettysburg Address, the extra-credit poster
some girls made from newspaper clippings
of Mary Ann, complete with meticulous magic

marker heart-and-flower border, keeps
distracting us. Everyone fails, no one makes
it past these dead shall not have died in vain,

and, when someone asks where vain is,
teacher snaps in derision—knowing we think
it might be a destination for a future class trip.

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