Saturday, 24 May 2014

Poem from Death Row

Received in my latest letter this week:


Why would I ever get out of  bed
When facing the day means facing the dead.
Still I arise and herein lies death
That no dream can conquer though what else is left
Other than surrendering to this reality, or run
Screaming into the medicinal haze that blots out the sun.
By which I mean that human reason alone
Cannot be of help where the sun has not shone.

So catalogue your memories, or throw them away,
And let the magic moments fall where they may,
Each like a snowflake in its majestic flight
That fades into nothing in the darkness of night.
My mind's eye cares not in the least
Whether the sun rises in the west or sets in the east.
All these emptying cells* still fill me with dread
As I wake every morning to go face the dead.

*Texas has already executed seven people this year. They had been on death row from between ten and twenty years. Many of those still waiting have been there for much longer.


  1. I am indebted to you and your courage for bringing the horror and barbarism of America to my attention. I have ostrich syndrome and prefer to ignore this matter.

    1. Adrian, no courage involved really. But I felt that feeling strongly about the death penalty wasn't good enough; I ought to do something - however tiny - about it.

  2. A very poignant and moving poem.

  3. Beautifully written and so moving x

  4. It makes the Chinese system, where they are taken directly from court and into a 'van', seem almost humane. The long wait that these people endure seems worse than their end.

    1. CM I think Japan is almost worse. They don't tell prisoners it's their turn until the actual day, so they must wake each morning in terror.

  5. That second verse in particular is very powerful, Frances.

    1. Yes. It's the lack of any hope that's so awful, Rosemary.

  6. I'm sure any form of incarceration for whole life (the alternative to the death penalty and not what we refer to as life imprisonment in this country) must also deprive people of hope. What death row must do, though, is deprive people of everything except the their bare existence. I sometimes wish that I still had the campaigning zeal I had when I was 16 but I'd all but lost it by the time I was 21.