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Epidermal hell.

Every night, for months without letup, at some mid-point between one and two O'clock, they sprung him out of bed with zaps of an electric prod to the genitals, then strapped the Senator into a tall upright seat. The first time, Wyn surmised it was the electric chair--his number was up! But no, the torturers' most elegant paraphernalia was reserved for Citizens of Parts, not to be wasted on your common serial killer, or routine felon. At the same hour each night, they woke him from dream-reverie of poems he'd secretly pencilled the day before, yanked him from his cell half-drugged with sleep, and strapped him in his oversize Throne, high metal chair back matched to his lengthy frame, a man six foot five in his better days--now bowed over, shrunk some few centimeters, no less; and the ghastly art of inducing pain without limit commenced.... Chinese Rubber Torture, that classy import from the prisons of Peking, kept eight steps ahead of even their Siberian counterparts in State-of-the-Art torture hardware. Three rubber hammers, released in sync, began thudding upon his body: one hammer slugged his forehead from above, while two others battered each of his hands. Taps of the flat-edged hammers, travelling at slow speeds across a short arc, seemed mild enough, at first. He even grew to anticipate each next hammer's clap with a wierd martyr's pleasure (if this is their worst, I welcome it, O keep it coming), but after an hour or two, the oddly seductive rhythm took a lethal turn. Only three skin patches were engaged, directly, but he felt as though every square inch of his flesh--even the dry sockets under his arms, the damp pouch that tightly clamped his balls--caught the same agonizing sting, as from thousands of poison needles piercing his body's rind, at once (so this is it, now I'm halfway to hell, what's next?): epidermal surface, in its entirety, seemed to have been translated into a pore-lined organic pin cushion.... But at some incalculable moment, each night, his psychic gears swerved, shifted within him as he wriggled this way and that, tugging at his straps. It may be he sought an inner counter rhythm to oppose to the deathly glum monotone of the rubber hammers. Perhaps he found himself, at those junctures, planning lines for his next morning's poem, stuttering the key words he might fasten around images. It's certain that he bellowed, at intervals--sang out syllables! And do you know, the sound of word chants roared in his dulled ears saved him.
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Author:Lieberman, Laurence
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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