Human history is rife with bloodshed, either through war or murder. Poets have explored every facet of this penchant for violence: why we do it, how we do it, and the cost of doing it for each successive generation. And even as we explore the reasons and mechanisms behind our own self-destructiveness, it continues to haunt us. Here is one of our favorite murder poems. Yuck.
His Soul is Torn in Response to A Ragged Soul was written by Bryan Florence to explore the feelings of a jury member when faced with the soul-crushing responsibility of deciding on another person’s fate when that person stands accused of committing a murder. Here’s the poem:
His soul is torn, taken in his youth.
I am not excusing him for killing his spouse with a hammer
His soul was lost long ago
When he was a child, merely four.
This does not enter into my conscious thoughts.
Should it though?
We are here to decide on his fate.
He has already killed one,
and is suspected of murdering two who are missing.
Who could believe these were all coincidences?
He turned and looked into my eyes once.
I felt the jury box melt.
I knew he wanted to kill me.
I felt dead.
If he could do that with a look, what could he do with a hammer?
I find it easy to cast my vote to keep him in prison for the rest of his life.
Imagining what a woman went through as he killed her with a hammer.
Pounding her head with at least forty two blows.
I never want him out.
When the verdict is read he turns and gives me a stare of pure hate.
I am terrified.
I had never met anyone soulless before.
Poems about murder all share a particular morbidity, but Florence’s short work manages to evoke feelings we don’t often think about or perceive. Juries are usually formed of mostly anonymous individuals who work behind closed doors. What do we know about how they feel when they convict a person for murder?