Click here to listen to Catherine Pierce read this poem. “Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.”
—final words of gangster George Appel, before being put to death by electric chair
Each time his girl visited, lips pressed like stained tulips, cheeks pinched into heat for the man behind the glass, she left shaking her head, scuffing her Sunday shoes against the pavement.
Why did she believe this time
might be different? That this morning
he might remember her breasts beneath
the winter coat, the nub of her earlobe
in his teeth? All he watched for now
was the expression of her mouth.
What about this, he’d say. What’s cooking?
Or How about you fry up something good?
Then he’d grin and say I’m on fire!
Electric, even. At first, the girl wept,
chewed her nails—he was hysterical,
surely raped and maddened in that cell.
But each imagined ba-dump-bum
carried her further from her wedding,
her sand-white dress, solid hands
around her waist. She tried,
she told her mother. She brought
caramels, pinups, photographs of herself
naked, and he would say I got a good one
today. What do you call a fruit in a chair?
What do you get when you cross ….
She threatened to stop coming. But
each time he would beg, his face drooping
like a wet stocking. When the day came,
the girl was there, eyes swollen, hands nervous.
She heard the words, then silence broken
only by his choked laugh, the laugh
broken by the current. In bed that night
she would not tell him how the orderlies
wheeled the gurney in. How,
when they strapped him on, no one
made a sound. She would tell him instead
about the guards doubling over, the priest bowing
into his grin. The whole gray room vibrating
with the aftershock of his wit.