Burning up inside, Ethel Rosenberg gets dressedas if she’s going to a gala. For one bright momenteverything forgotten: her brother’s lies, evidence –typewriter, console table, notes burning in a frying pan –as flimsy as her nylons. She remembers only Julie’s touch,his pencilled love letters, the arias she sung himfrom an adjoining cell. And then he’s there, her husband,and the room has no screen and they charge and grasp,mouths, hands, flesh. Prised apart by guards. Julie’s faceso smeared with lipstick he looks as if he’s bleeding.
That last hot evening, their fourteenth anniversary,they finger kiss through wire mesh, blood tricklingdown the screen. At 8.06, just before the setting sunheralds the Jewish Sabbath over Sing-Sing, Julius is dead.Minutes later, Ethel, in a green print dress, settlestight lips into a Mona Lisa smile. Says nothing,winces as the electrode cap makes contact with her skull.It takes five shocks to kill her, the oak chair madefor a man, Ethel so petite the helmet doesn’t fit, so friedwitnesses see coils of smoke rising from her head.
She dreamed of being an opera singer but who was sheto have such dreams, product of the Jewish Bronx,a mother who belittled her, said she brought it on herself?Anyway, her mouth would never open wide enough,except to kiss him, her beloved Julius. His crime?Handing over minor secrets. Hers was finding loveone New Year’s Eve, just before she went onstage to sing.He cooled her flaming nerves. Never having known such caringshe hurled herself into her role – loyal wife, so insignificantto the KGB, she didn’t even have a code name.
by Lorna Thorpe
'Crime of the Century' is copyright © Lorna Thorpe, 2011. It is reprinted by permission of Arc Publications from Sweet Torture of Breathing by Lorna Thorpe (Arc Publications, 2011).
Lorna Thorpe was born in Brighton where she lived
for most of her life until relocating to Cornwall in 2011. Before
turning her hand to poetry she worked as a tour operator, social worker
and barmaid. Her debut publication Dancing to Motown (Pighog Press, 2005) was a Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice, and her first full collection A Ghost in My House was
published by Arc in 2008. As a fiction writer, her short stories have
been short-listed for awards, and appeared in magazines and anthologies.
She works as a freelance writer and has published features in the Guardian. You can read more selections from Lorna Thorpe's work at Arc's page here, and follow her work via her website here, which includes more examples of her poetry and video of Lorna reading.
Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications has
adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new
talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would
otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting
edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music,
for the publication of books about music and musicians. As well as its
page on Facebook, you can now find Arc on Twitter; search for @Arc_Poetry. Visit Arc's website to join the publisher's mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers.
Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website
(except Collectors' Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within
Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the
poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held
by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should
be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual