- I Now Pronounce You DeadFor Sacco and Vanzetti, executed August 23, 1927
Martín Espada, poetry, political, Latino rights, authoritarian, sacapegoat
On the night of his execution, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, immigrantfrom Italia, fishmonger, anarchist, shook the hand of Warden Hendryand thanked him for everything. I wish to forgive some people for whatthey are now doing to me, said Vanzetti, blindfolded, strapped downto the chair that would shoot two thousand volts through his body.
The warden's eyes were wet. The warden's mouth was dry. The wardenheard his own voice croak: Under the law I now pronounce you dead.No one could hear him. With the same hand that shook the handof Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Warden Hendry of Charlestown Prisonwaved at the executioner, who gripped the switch to yank it down.
The walls of Charlestown Prison are gone, to ruin, to dust, to mist.Where the prison stood there is a school; in the hallways, tonguesspeak the Spanish of the Dominican, the Portuguese of Cabo Verde,the Creole of Haiti. No one can hear the last words of Vanzetti,or the howl of thousands on Boston Common when they knew.
After midnight, at the hour of the execution, Warden Hendrysits in the cafeteria, his hand shaking as if shocked, rice flying offhis fork, so he cannot eat no matter how the hunger feeds on him,babbling the words that only he can hear: I now pronounce you dead. [End Page 667]
martín espada's latest collection of poems is called Vivas to Those Who Have Failed. Other books of poems include The Trouble Ball, The Republic of Poetry, and Alabanza. He has received the Shelley Memorial Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His book of essays, Zapata's Disciple, was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the State of Arizona. Espada teaches English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.