Sept./Oct. 2000


Visiting Jack Kevorkian In Prison:
A Crip Fantasy.

By Robert Mauro.

Robert Mauro is the author of five books, including The Landscape of My Disability.

Visiting Jack Kevorkian in prison is like going to a foreign country. Not Greek or Turk. But somewhat berserk. Perhaps an alternative universe. Or worse. The language, first, needs translation.

"You have to be there to understand," Jack says, getting fat (or is it thin?) in the State's own maximum pen. He grins his dark Kevorkian grin. He knows what's in every man and woman's heart, he says to start. And it's no different in this prison. It is what it is.

"It's THEIR decision."

The culture is of "a different persuasion." Sure: coercion, perversion, diversion. It's nothing new to him. He takes it on the chin, if you can -- and some do -- believe him. I see his dark Kevorkian grin again.

"Where do I begin? Where do I begin?" he sighs, belying his own lie.

Here the legal tender is surrender, sex, cigarettes and "I won't forget"s. Jack sits in his myth of a "comfortable death," drifts, playing chess as if in some dark black and white Fifties Bergman film on PBS one afternoon. He regrets nothing, like Piaf. He laughs his dark Kevorkian laugh as he paints his ghoulish nightmares. His craft.

There are no naked women pinned up in his cell. No calendars. No visions of hell. Nor new dates with death marked in black or red; nor some crip eager to relieve him or herself of the "debt" -- the "burden" -- of endless talk and frustrating debate with the State. Fate is fate, to hear him prate.

He said he would stop eating. But now he counts his calories every evening, and thinks of fast food and perhaps Chinese. Thai or Japanese. He isn't leaving . . . not just yet. Oh, please! He's hoping for a change of heart, the old damn fart. He's hoping for a Hemlock Revolution, a CNN Exclusive. Inclusion on some Larry King Show or perhaps Geraldo. MSNBC will see. Rupert Murdoch is pleading, "Choose me! Choose me!"

"We will live again," Jack says. "It isn't over yet, my friend. Oh, no. Not yet." He smiles again. Is that glee I see? "Where there's life there's hope," he says. "Victory. Believe me. You'll see."

He's no dope. He might just be right. After all, look at all the polls. He won't go gently into that good night.

"I'm not unlike Dylan Thomas, I promise: a poet with, if you wish, death. No one wants to live like 'that' or this," he says.

And the bars he sees each day will surely fade away and turn to trees, he believes. And death will come on little cat's feet as Sandburg says. It always has. It always has. The State has no say. He is not "put away." This is only a temporary stay.

"And there'll be more and more crips writing to me every day. You'll see. You'll see. You'll see. It's not over yet! Believe me. Believe me."

He smiles and turns his gaunt, gray head away. And grins. He is not living. But he is not dead. He sips his cup of lukewarm tea or coffee thinking of Socrates and trees and trees. And Hemlock leaves. He no longer has his gun to protect him.

"Now the State controls my fate, but wait, just you wait. I am the master of my soul. I am the captain of my fate," he says quite droll, misquoting Invictus from his toilet bowl.

The man is bold. The man is bold. And he'll grow old and he'll grow old -- sitting on his toilet bowl.


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