Since I will be celebrating Independence Day in the United States on Friday, here’s a non-Friday poetry offering.

This post requires a setup. National Public Radio has a series called, “The Race Card Project.” It’s a collection of six-word essays (that’s not a mistype. I typed six on purpose. Six, as in, 6.). The most intriguing essays are expanded into stories.

Today’s poem is based upon this six-word essay: “Grandfather’s poker gift a hanging invitation”.

A nine-year-old girl won her first poker game playing her grandfather. Her prize was freedom to explore his collection of stuff. In it, she found a formal invitation to a public hanging for Friday, February 16, “in the Year of Our Lord,” 1917.

The invitation was addressed to her grandfather.

race-card-carol-zachary2_custom-e06f8bc82ff7bcd06acf470bc7ef5d4f313a5a03-s6-c30The invitation package contained formal portraits of the three young men to be executed. Note the R.S.V.P..

race-card-carol-zachary1_wide-138bae9953f7eaa64e876c11b33b2455a058a670-s6-c30(Both of the above images are from NPR’s The Race Card Project website.)

The repeating nature of the pantoum is perfect for this topic.

If you don’t recall, the structure of the pantoum is: ABCD, BEDF, EGFH, … with the final stanza built from line 2 of the previous stanza, line 3 of the first stanza, line 4 of the previous, and line 1 of the first.

It’s exactly the same structure even if you do recall. The pantoum is magical in this way.

I wrote an additional stanza after the “final” one, because I wanted to bring the setting into the present to establish a narrative between the girl and her grandfather.

The NPR story based on the original six-word essay is at The Race Card Project or here at

I’ve got several short stories begging to be published, so stay tuned. For now, I hope you enjoy today’s offering.

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Your Presence is Requested

Your Presence is Requested
In the Year of Our Lord
Witness the Execution of:
Harrison Gibson, Henry Hall, and Lester Fahley

. . .

In the ear of our Lord
More suitable to say, “Rain-in-the-Face,” “Bama,” and “King Faro”
Gibson, Hall, and Fahley become too human
Portrait of three disrespecting souls

. . .

More suitable to slay, “Rain-in-the-Face,” “Bama,” and “King Faro”
Swung from barn rafters found suitable
Forfeit these disrespected souls
Since we are between harvests

. . .

Slung from barn rafters, found, suited
We have time to watch and time to kill
Since we are between harvests
Burdened ceilings crack from excess pressure

. . .

We had time to watch and time to kill
Here present witness bears under undug hells
Burdened seeings crack from excess pressure
Memories traveling taught like strands of rope

. . .

Hear presence whispers blare over unrung bells
Witness the Execution of:
Memories unraveling caught like strands of rope
Your Presence is Requested

. . .

“But wasn’t it suitable,” she asks, R.S.V.P.
They were criminals, the little girl reads
“It was awful,” Grandfather’s lungs empty
Impossible to breathe in the air of our Lord

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