Ling Chi

Sometimes, they start with the eyes
to spare the shame.

The contentious use of opiates to distance pain.
Some say a honeyed absence corrupts what dignity is left.
(Some. Not those facing the cleaver, I’d bet.)

The merciful kill quick, stone cold.
The first stroke, deep pierce
to the heart’s chamber.

The postmortem pics show
the bloodflow stopped well
before the cuts ceased.

Thick slow clots
sticking to what is left of skin,
refusing to soak back to earth.

Slice by slice by
sting by sting by
flesh by flesh by

But those eyes!
Is that an ankle bone gone now, or rib?
Buttock or breast? Shoulderblade?
What next for the carvery?

Who will dare to pull the emperor from his horse?
What voice from the crowd will first shout
stop, for the love of all that is good, stop?


Ling Chi was a form of torture and execution in use in China from roughly 900 AD to 1905. It translates variously as ‘the slow process’, ‘the lingering death’, ‘the slow slicing’ or ‘death by a thousand cuts’. 
In Britain, the practice of hanging, drawing and quartering as a form of execution was in practice until 1866.


Rachel McCrum has worked as a poet, performer and promoter in Edinburgh since 2012, arriving via Manchester, Belfast, New Zealand, Oxford and a small seaside town in Northern Ireland. She is Broad of Rally & Broad, winner of the 2013 Callum Macdonald Award and the 2015 Writer In Residence for CoastWord, Dunbar. She has performed and taught poetry in Greece, South Africa, Haiti and around the UK. Her second pamphlet Do Not Alight Here Again was published in March 2015 by Stewed Rhubarb Press, and in August 2015, she did her first solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe, as part of new spoken word collective SHIFT/.


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