I needed to write something to clear my head before trying to sleep. I feel deeply hurt by the denial of a stay by the U.S. Supreme Court. I’ve been involved in many death penalty protests and several protests against specific cases. This one held open a window that made me feel as if this case might be different. The biases of race and class are undeniable in this particular choice of punishment and throughout the entire prison industrial complex.
I do encourage people to check out the campaigns by Amnesty International, the NAACP, and the invaluable work that The Innocence Project continues to do. I also encourage people to check out Angela Y. Davis’ tiny, but insightful book Are Prisons Obsolete? and the documentary Deadline about the moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.
I wanted to share a poem that may change. I needed to write so I can process what happened. Tomorrow, will be another day to move forward.
Not the Words
I signed letter and petition on behalf of Troy Davis,
counted the hours that passed before he was strapped
to gurney for more hours that I clutched and hoped
that my name would be the last one needed to nudge
the tide toward overturning. I am afraid of stilled limbs,
halted breath. Time, a rigid, finite vice clamps down.
The last chance to close one’s eyes should not be
assigned by writ, enforced by rows of black flak jackets.
Inert paper turns into fatal weapon. Last breaths should
not have blueprints. A final shudder precipitated by profile,
a death as a symbol, sketched in the chiaroscuro of melanin
as indictment, set as some sort of relief pressed into lives
that are poor, brown, less than clean, polished wealth.
All of this is so clinical, trapped in metaphors that will not
resuscitate the man who left saying he was innocent. He was
free. Troy Davis is free, but the ink falters when I write such
words. There is no freedom unless the death machine loses gears.
Martina Correia stood away from her wheelchair, and I will stand.
De’Jaun Correia stood fully in his seventeen years. He will stand.
The former warden, an FBI director, and b-boys made their stand.
As midnight presses its fingertips against my eyelids, a gurney
looms in my head. A man strapped to his last hours while
judges deliberate, or not. Those fetters were never named torture,
but innocence claimed is defiance. The semantics of execution
damn the cloud of doubt drifting thick and filmy tonight. Forgive
and forget are not the words. A new vocabulary must be written
for a new South, new evidence, new humanity, new lives intact.