The Wisdom of Others
Concerning Capital Punishment

"An eye for an eye and everyone is blind."

~~ Mohandas Ghandi

"We may be aware of the criminal acts that put an individual on death row . . . but very few of us know of the human being whom society has condemned to death."

~~ Michael Ross

"Life On the Row"

"You are and you aren't a part of the larger whole around you.
You form friendships and your friends die.
You dream and your dreams die."

-- Caryl Chessman, executed May2, 1960, San Quentin

It is always night at the ocean
in my mind, with a moon so full, it hangs
too low in the picture frame sky like overripe
fruit, burdensome for the branch.
Take a bite. Be saturated with the taste
of residual heat and monoi oil.

It is always winter in the tropics
in my mind, with a fan so large, it moves
too slow in the little thatched hut like molten
rock, born to form this place.
Close your eyes. You are the root
of breadfruit and tiare tahiti.

There are always guests at the table
in my mind, with tales so bold, they grow
too wild in the dining room like uncivilized
weeds, increasing in complexity.
Drink your tea. Follow them to the core
of the black-lipped oyster’s womb.

Beyond the bars of my cage
I hear them talk,
the guard in the grease-stained shirt
to the man with one gold crowned tooth.
“Good thing this ain’t Los Angeles,” he says,
“They’re so used to pollution down there,
I’ve seen ‘em last in the gas
five minutes, maybe more.”

It is perennial night at the ocean, perpetual winter
in the tropics. The people – they always come
to tell tales at my table. And each in the cell of himself
is almost convinced of his freedom.

© 2003 MJM

1st Place winner/July 2003 in the IBPC


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