Poetry


This page is dedicated to condemned poets:

"I LONG TO KNOW"

I long to know what this society demeanor would look like if Malcolm X and Tupac was still alive. I wonder if their presence and deep messages would have propelled us towards a greater path of change and hope.

I long to know what the face of religion would bear a resemble to if we had an African American Pope that was born and raised somewhere in the deep South, like Mississippi.

I ponder, I wonder.

I long to know what the state of the world would mirror if the Supreme Court hadn't robbed Al Gore of his votes. Maybe Saddam Hussein would still be the leader of Iraq and Isis wouldn't have the world on edge...fearing the next attack.

I long to know what this nation would look like if we hadn't closed the door on the War on Poverty and shifted to the War on Crime - who knows, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't be sitting in a prison cell alone in the midst of darkness writing these poetic lines.

I long to know what HIV and AIDS would bring to mind if we only spoke truthfully about it and spent some of Warren Buffett's money to create a world-wide educational campaign about it. If we did, maybe, Magic Johnson would have more NBA rings and Easy-E would still be on the scene chasing his music dreams.

I long to know, am I the only one who thinks about these types of things?

I long to know what the month of December would feel like if we totally took Santa Claus out of the equation. I wonder if the kids would still enjoy happiness and love the season.

I long to know what this country would look like if we had elected a black woman, someone like the sister Shirley Chisholm or Rosa Parks as President, instead of Obama as our first black president.

Can anybody hear me? I long to know.

I long to know what the state of education would echo in this country if Yale, Harvard and Brown had all been black men.

I long to know...

-Kenneth Reams, Feb. 2017


Muteness

America
For over half
Of my natural existence
In this world
I’ve lingered
Sullen in silence
Slowly withering away
Like a dandelion without water
Battling the cruelty
Of solitary confinement
Which equates
To a sophisticated form
Of no touch torture
And subliminal violence
But simply because I occupy
This small confined space
In repressed silence
Doesn’t mean I don’t have
Anything to say
About this inhumane fashion
Of psychological abuse
You continue to force
Need to embrace…
Muteness.

Kenneth Reams, Arkansas Death Row Inmate 2016

 

In My Cell

You would never have an idea what the system does until you set deep in the middle. I sat here with 77 other cells. My T.V. is on mute. There are at least 20 different conversations going on around me. I focused just on the sounds not the words. The sound is loud and makes no sense. I have sat here far too long. The same sound. There is no hope in this sound. It only sounds sad, like very slow death. The same sound. Wait is that hope I hear? Nope just someone crying to them self.  Everyday the same sounds.

Brandon Lacy, Arkansas (2012)

life

Through Someone Else’s Eyes
If you could see
Through someone else’s eyes
Would you sympathize with their mistakes?
Would you understand their lies?

Would you still be as quick
To condemn them to hell?
Or would you plead for God’s mercy
And sincerely wish them well?

Would you continue to go around
And talk behind their back
Or would you do all that you could
To try and pick up their slack?

What if you found yourself
Inside another’s skin
And you were on the outside
While they were welcomed in

How would you want them
To feel about you?
And then ask yourself
Is that what you would do?

Do unto others
What you would like done for you
For it’s not only them you bless
It’s your salvation too!

Clay Anthony Ford, 2004
Former Arkansas Death Row Inmate

 

Thinking Outside the Box,

What If?
What if… the sky was green not blue?

Would we, as mere mortals, change colors too?
What if… the world hadn’t gone so high-tech?

We’d all be a lot less stressed, I bet.
What if… oranges were red?

Would we call them “reds” instead?
What if… the grass were girly pink?

And all the beautiful flowers stink?
No one would come out smelling like a rose.

Romance would take a turn for the worst I suppose.
What if… men could actually give birth?

Who can guess what that would be worth?
Women could escape nine months of major bloating

While walking by men, all smiles and floating.
Wasn’t it awesome to think outside the box?

Thank goodness, I didn’t imagine a purple fox.
“What if’s”… have taken oodles of energy from me,

So, I say, lets leave everything be.

Carlette Parker

North Carolina Death Row, 2015

 

Poem by Kenneth Reams:
  • STRANGE FRUIT *

IS WHAT A SOUTHERN SLAVE ONCE CONSIDERED IT TO BE...
THE DESCRIPTION OF A NEGRO
HANGING & DANGLING
FROM THE LIMB OF A SYCAMORE TREE.

JUSTICE

IS WHAT MANY LABELED IT TO BE.
A SPIRITED TRADITION
THAT THOUSANDS CAME OUT TO WITNESS
AND SEE.
THE BARBARIC KILLING OF A BROTHER-MAN
FOR THE DEED HE COMMITTED AGAINST ANOTHER MAN.

LYNCHING IS WHAT HISTORY WOULD LATER
ACKNOWLEDGE IT TO BE.
THE DEATH PENALTY
IS THE (CODE NAME)
THATS MOSTLY USED TO NOW DESCRIBE THE ATROCITY.
WHILE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
IS WHAT BLACK'S DICTIONARY DEFINE IT TO BE-
IN THIS GENERATION OF NEW CHEMICALS
AND HIGH TECH TECHNOLOGY.

TO SOME.
TO THE NAIVE,
JUST BECAUSE THEY CANNOT SEE
STRANGE FRUIT LITERALLY DANGLING FROM THE TREE
MANY HAVE WRITTEN OFF LYNCHINGS
AS IF THEY NO LONGER EXIST IN OUR SOCIETY.
BUT I AM THE NEW ERA OF STRANGE FRUIT
"MINUS THE SYCAMORE TREE"
AND IF YOU OPEN YOUR EYES
THIS REALITY YOU WILL SEE.

DEATH ROW INMATE,
KENNETH REAMS (2013)
Graphic Art: Isabelle Watson

 

On the day I die...
I wonder if my principles and beliefs will have meant anything.
I wonder if I will have truly served my purpose in life
or if there was still more left for me to do.

On the day I die...
I wonder if the world will miss me
or if I'll even be remembered for anything that I did, (whether good or bad).

On the day I die...
I wonder how my heart will feel about death
and the life I lived.

On the day I die...
I wonder if anyone will pray to God "for me"
and ask Him to open the gates
for the coming of my soul.

~ Kenneth Reams, Arkansas images (2)

Execution

He was damned and saved,
paralyzed with fear.
After two decades
of endless appeals,
and justice delayed
the finale is near.
For his soul some prayed,
while others sneered.
But his debt must be paid
with blood, sweat and tears.
Righteous anger never fades
cuz only god forgives.
A lethal injection was made,
the humane way to kill
those society has portrayed
as “too dangerous to live.”

-Justin Anderson, Arkansas 2014images (2)
Lesson Learned

I’ve learned that hope
Is the essence of dreams
And a poor man's ambition
Is to be buried in c.r.e.a.m.
I’ve learned that wisdom
Is the sister of wealth
And ignorance and action
Is a recipe for death
I’ve learned that faith
Is a bridge to godliness
And thoughts of suicide
Is a symptom of loneliness
I’ve learned that love
Is reserved for the dying
And piece of mind is found
In a coffin where I am lying

-Justin Anderson, Arkansas 2014images (2)

Songs of the Destitute

Miracle vernacular of forsaken populace begging to be heard serenade
the power elite who deliberately ignores.
Why endure this hypocrisy disguised a democracy when the reality
Is that no ruling class has ever given up its tower to those it considers
more enlightened.
Fringed between patriot and anarchist, I ponder the morality of this
reality and ask myself if a person does in fact become neurotic because
he cannot tolerate the amount of frustration which society imposes on him in the service of its cultural ideas.
In my dreams I am free from the rhetorical speeches of professionals
orators, and soar to a richly intertwined multidimensional labyrinth of a complex universe.
Forms in the abstract diverge in vein of the optic nerve and reveal a
colorful display of a kaleidoscopic florescence.
But sleep is only temporary and reality awaits the moment I awake and again I am embraced with a hard core honesty that inspires another poetic expression.
Desperate to overcome the circumstances of the here and now, I’ll
continue to sing aloud- the songs of the destitute!

-Tavares Calloway, Florida 2014

images (2)

"SOLITARY CONFINEMENT"

These isolation walls...
they creep
and they crawl.
Lurking for
that single moment of
mental weakness to befall.
If you become hopeless,
lose focus,
or spiritually fall,
your soul will become
a feast
for these solitary walls .

Death Row Inmate,
 Kenneth Reams, Arkansas 2012

images (2)

WHO AM I?
Poem: Kenneth Reams ,
Music & Voice: Ryk. Vincent
Video : Isabelle Watson

 

The Thoughts  of a DR  Prisoner 

The prison gard, is he just my keeper ?
Or is he too, my Grim Reaper ?
Appearing before my prison cell

When my number is called
To lead me down that lonely hall
Where on a gurney I will lay 

Strapped, doped in a ( dreamy swirl )
Before passing all into that other world.

Harvey Earvin. Texas/ 2015 

 

 




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Welcome to Who Decides, Inc. Who Decides, Inc. is a public-benefit organization. As a national network of activists, volunteers and dedicated people, we are committed to using various mediums of art such as creative writing, plays, visual art, dance, music and film as a way of educating society about the practice and history of capital punishment in America. The public events and forums that we present explore more than 400 years of the U.S. death penalty from all perspectives: the crime, the victims, the condemned, the methods of execution, and the laws. Our ultimate goal at Who Decides is to preserve the history of this controversial practice by establishing a national museum on the death penalty. This national museum will serve as an educational institution devoted to collecting, studying, exhibiting and interpreting America's extensive history on capital punishment.