“Caril Ann Fugate” by Joseph Fasano

Joseph Fasano


b 1943: adolescent partner of accomplice Charles Starkweather. Together they killed 10 during a six-day spree in Nebraska, 1958. Starkweather was executed by electric chair. Fugate, her part in the crimes unproven, was sentenced to life imprisonment, and was paroled in 1976.

Last night I dreamt of my father.
He watched you slip
a coin from his black silk vest
and replace it with the moon.
Then he kissed the rifle. 

Always they get
the story wrong.
It had nothing to do
with James Dean. 
We were alive, that’s all.

I remember the way you held me
on the Interstate, the night 
the pigs came.
Aint nothin right
in it, you whispered.

Then you kissed me
with those James Dean lips
until I didn’t know
where the blood-black
clouds of America

stopped their blooming
and my youth began.
I know, I know. 
But always my neighbor dances.
She pulls out photos

of her girlhood love,
how she slicked his hair
with Bristol Cream.
Then she can bury 
those things with his shoes.

I guess I have to carry them.
Tonight I sit in my rent house,
and my gown is ruined.
My landlady tells me
of a boy they found

at the edge of the river—
half-boy, half-fish, 
really—and lifted him 
by the shoulders.
What does that mean?

I am old now. 
You would not know me.
The young, divorced 
woman I know
visits me mornings. 

She stares at her hands.
She is still living
with the stray they took in
at the end together. 
She is so beautifully sad.

But she has her life.
I think of the girl
trapped in the woods,
her ankle twisted
in a red-fox trap,

snow in her eyes.
I think of my mother,
the names carved in her blood
like a boat with no good 
harbor. Nights, the dead

would come, once, sitting
on my linens in spring time. 
How could I have done
the things I have
done, they’d whisper.

They meant themselves, 
Charlie. They got it all wrong. 
Now they are barely there.
Charlie, who is this strange dark
figure who stands by me

nights? She is clean,
and dark, and I do not know her.
Last night I helped two children
bury a barn owl
they’d discovered,

as you would the moon of youth.
Charlie, O Charlie,
what can I do?
When they strapped you 
to the chair, 

I looked away. You
who talked so smooth,
and gave me gooseflesh
when you found me 
in the yard

of the Whittyer School.
That’s all. Your mouth
was candy, and I went to you. 
You who raised me 
on fire

and spun me like a child
with their blood on your face,
the moon in your clothes.
You who laughed, and hid me.
You who will never have to live

through the worst part, ever:
Forgiveness. To be forgiven.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Joseph Fasano: “I’m most interested lately in the voices of others, of the impossible attempt to imagine oneself into the voice, the circumstance, the history of another life, another death. It’s at least as impossible—and as essential an act—as trying to step fully into one’s own.” (web)

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