The Empress — Michael Heffernan

It had become clear that the only way
to rid her from our faces was to kill her.
Apart from what she always did for us,
we still could be an easygoing lot
of negligible ingrates. The fact that she
had offered us our freedom from desire
in a world made plentiful by her largesse,
granting us all the gift of who she was—
combined with her insufferable presumption
to owning those she gave the things she owned—
fastened us to one common frame of mind
that bodied forth the doing of the deed.
Everyone’s eyes were wide with rectitude
when this imperative belonged to me.
I took the matter up with energy
befitting my disdain. Her dropping over
later that weekend fell in perfectly
with inclinations to perform some act
that graced a naked aptitude for rage.
She came to sit and smoke as usual,
filling the kitchen-nook with talk of how
she knew my heart better than anyone,
because, of course, she had the means to know it,
which was true enough for her, and me as well,
if she said so, and kept on saying so
in words that spun like the blue clouds that rose
above her chair out of her great toad’s head,
which, in mid-word, I wrenched by its black hair
to snap her neck as clean as a dry stick
against the top rung, having stepped up behind
just as her cackle from a thought she loved
had spasmed enough to let her think again
and start to say whatever I might have learned,
had I the hunger to keep listening.
She always put her feet up on the table,
so when her face looked at me upside-down,
her feet flew up and kicked the kitchen lamp,
which leapt and wobbled wildly as she dropped
onto the floor. I smoothly stepped aside.
Then everyone filed in from the next room.
They took turns guessing what she might have said
if she had caught the breath to let me know.
One of them thought it no doubt had to do
with how much she enjoyed being filthy rich,
as often her grotesque self-satisfaction
led her to blurt with candid gaiety.
Now she is filthy dead, somebody added,
expecting laughter, but nobody laughed.
Insouciance like a god’s had come instead
to fill the place with new tranquility
and bring the gift of easeful liberty
that we had no one but ourselves to thank for.
Something was here that had to do with love
that nobody understood, not even me.
After a while, I sat there by myself.
They carried her to her car and drove her home.
One of them called and said her dog had come
and curled up at her feet on the lounge chair
where they had stretched her by the swimming pool.
Her housekeeper would see her the next day
and go about her chores, not noticing
anything wrong, not even an odd smell.
Later I might stop over to drop off
the black sapphire I found on the kitchen floor.

typo magazine — issue three