Work: A Ghazal for Oklahoma

by Julia McConnell


(State Motto: Labor Conquers All Things)

I learned about the battle over the lethal drugs
on the radio while driving home from work.

There are thick reference books on pharmaceuticals
and slim volumes on death at the library where I work.

I know women in Oklahoma who wear a uniform
and make prisoners stand behind a line for their work.

There are lawyers who defend murderers and rapists
and try to keep them from the execution chamber for their work.

I try not to drink too much wine after a day contending
with screaming toddlers and grumpy customers at work.

Twelve journalists watched Lockett struggle from the gurney
moaning. To be witnesses is their work.

News of the botched execution scrolled onscreen while I watched
The Voice, where the singers, uninterrupted, performed their work.

It is unethical for doctors to execute, so prison workers
administered the drugs, unqualified for such work.

I was taught in  Sunday  school, it is a Beatitude
to visit prisoners. This is a saint’s work.

Sometimes I watch  Law and Order
to see justice at work.

After his vein collapsed, after the viewing window was closed,
43 minutes after his first injection, Lockett’s heart stopped its work.

Clayton Lockett shot Stephanie Neiman
and buried her alive. This is evil’s work.

Stephanie’s parents live
with their grief. This is their work.

Compounding pharmacies mix drugs that Europe
won’t sell to us. We pay them for their work.

The next morning I lie in bed and listen to the news.
I know we are all complicit in this work.

Originally published in This Land, Vol. 5, Issue 14, July 15, 2014.