Death Row Poems

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By condemned men and women on awaiting execution
A space
Within this space
A time
Although I am a prisoner
Your words are the wines
Wherefupon my soul take flight
I inhabit the cusp
Of two worlds
One with you
One without you
One liberates me
One keeps me in bondage
In the weeping hours
I meditate upon your name
And it guides me homewards
I cannot live
I cannot die
One dimension
Is light
One dimension
Is dark
One speaks to me
One keeps silent
Chaos coexisting with cosmos
My inhales are dreamthings
My exhales are wishthings
I am part of letting go
I am part of living whole

Duke Charles
San Quentin CA

Man or beast! is your decision,
attempting to judge someone from
their personality traits, may be
hard to do, with exact precision.

But when the curiosities of our
mind, entwines with one another,
touching on those long sought -
after peace and comforts, you'll
be satisfied when calling me brother.

Franklin Lynch
San Quentin CA
The Invitation… To Those Curious

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you truly ache for and if you dare to
dream of meeting your hearts true longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your
dreams, for the very adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of
your own sorrow; if you have been apposed by life's betrayals, or have become shriveled and closed from fear
of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or our own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill
you to the tip of your fingers and toes, without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the
limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another, to
be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusations of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be
faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it's not pretty, everyday and if you can save your own life
from it presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to
the silver of the full moon, "YES!"

It doesn't interest me where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after a
night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the
center of the fire with me and not shrink back in fear and doubt.

It doesn't interest me where, what or with whom you have studied. I want to know just what sustains you,
from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep, both in the shadows
and empty moments of your life. This is the invitation… to those curious.

Thomas Anthony Battle
San Quentin CA

He speaks but no one hears him,
Tears fall softly.
The whisper of a down feather.
Invisible in a sea of faces,
Colours, black and white in the shadows.
A Valkyries touch, fleetingly
Stirring lost souls amid the thud
Of a heart beat.
Silent as the night…

Scott Collins
San Quentin CA












Woody L Wilson
San Quentin CA


One card…
a moment of joy.
One letter…
a cherished shared thought.
One photo…
a dream escape from this man-made hell.
To what is a man without the joy of his dreams to forever cherish? Nothing.


Kevin D. Pelzer
Waynesburg PA
The Mirror of Truth

He awakes from the deep sleep of unpeacefulness.
A black man child in a world not his own,
controlled by a force of spiritless beings.
He stands before a mirror of life, past and present.
He stands looking at his nakedness, his travel begins.
A child is born, it's a boy 9 lbs 1/2 to a black woman child,
it's her first.

He sees that, because that is I.
What a beautiful sight!
What a beautiful sight!
The tears begin to form.
He is happy once again.
Time in the mirror begins to move on...
It's moving to fast for him to see all that is going on,
But he was able to see some happiness.
Now back befor him is the present.

There is a stain on the cheek, where a tear once sat.
And it appears that more age has set in...
GOD what is happening!
There is something real deep going on, and he has no control.
The reflection now shows of a man that has lived a life of madness, stress, with no peace,
But there is a smile upon his face.
There is some inner peace!

Time has destroyed this man
he had to become a man before his time.
Thinking that he was able to stand against anything that life threw at him
With all the strength in his mind, body and soul he tried to stand.
The reality is, "Time beat him down in the worse way."
"The Mirror of Truth"
Jermont Cox
Waynesburg PA


I know how it feels to be so alone,
to feel such loneliness that chills to the bone.
I know how it feels to be without love,
to be crying to heaven to send an angel from above,
I know how it feels to be in pain,
to have a lonely shattered heart and soul make tears flow like an endless rain,
I know how it feels to be so alone,
to be without family nor have a place to call home.
I very much know how to be so alone.
Not even the painful lonely tears I cry can describe the loneliness I'm going thru.
Sincerely William Herrera Jr,
A Lonely Crying Heart And Soul

SYMPHONY                               by Travis Glass

I know that it’s plain to see
that every dream I have drowns,
when my fears get kicked around.
The only hope that can live in me
dies with every passing jingle.
You can’t help me!
You can’t help my pain!
Why do you keep me around?
When words only keep me down,
I can’t seem to silence the tears
I wish it were plain to see
So I could save my dream before it drowns
Comfort my fears after being kicked around
Give the hope that lives around me a friend,
and respectfully bury the jingle.
I used to know me better,
know how destructive I used to be.
My memories live through letters
Letters of Empathy
Composed of this, my life, my symphony.


I experience the most beautiful dream last night.
It was peaceful and funny.
As my dream was interrupted by the sounds of voices,
I wanted to return and continue in that world.
Now I sit and wonder, what dreams are really about?
Is it the outer body experience that some have said they had?
Or is it the subconscious state of wanting or needing to be?
I guess we all go through this phase of wanting to understand our
dreams, so me writing it, and you reading it probably means nothing.
I want to tell you about my dreams!
But I cannot,
out of fear if I tell you, then my want or needing to be will no
longer exist.
I sometime believe that my dreams are somewhat connected to the
next life, that you and I are looking forward to.
If that be the case then we are living two lives at once, not on a
different personality level, but on a level dealing with Spirit
and Mind.
That would mean Death, nothing more nothing less...
Would that eliminate Heaven and Hell?
Maybe the dreams that we are fear are Hell, and the dreams we enjoy
Heaven? I guess it all depends on what one believes.
Well I guess no matter what our dreams may mean, some we will enjoy,
others we will not.
Will we ever figure out what our dreams may mean?
In my opinion, No!
We are created by a Greater being than doctors, psychiatrists, etc...
Therefore no one can understand the thoughts, minds, and beings of
GOD's creation.
Anyway, I experience the most beautiful dream last night.
I wish I could tell you about it!

Jermont Cox
Waynesburg PA

Can You Help Me Identify....

Who Are You?
At this moment I have no idea who I am.
Why not?
I feel as though I have lost my identity.
I don't understand, make me understand?
I am not sure I can, but I'll try...

Looking in the mirror I see the face of a man.
The age, stress perminent frowns, but those are suppose to be
the signs of a man that has labored hard, that way in the
latter years of his wisdom he can relax, end enjoy until death.
That is not I...

Ist it any clearer to you now?
Please continue on.
As you see it's really hard to explain, I am sort of struggling with it myself...
But, before this I use to be able to say, I am a young man child.
Who's goal is to have a family, labor and provide.

For a while it all look promising, my laboring was going well...
Then I fell in love, out of love, in love again.
My life had identity during those, days, months, years...
At the drop of a dime it was all taken away from me...

I really don't understand what you want me to say!
Don't get angry just continue on. Who are you?
Well you know my name, and where I was born,
is that what you are looking for?

That is not what makes you who you are,
you could have died on that birth date, and never given a name.
You understand? It's not what I am looking for.
I am no longer a man laboring for his family. There are
no fruits from my past laboring.

I once was a young man that quickly had to become the being that I am today.
Are you who they say you are? A cold hearted, no conscience man?
No! I don't think so... I mean that makes me sound dead... I am not dead!
Am I dead? No! I am not dead!

I sit from day to day night to night searching
within myself for answers that seem to have no answer.
I need new life in order for my identity to return
because right now, just being a man with a name is not enough.

Thank you for your help... I did not do anything...
In time, all in time...


Ralph Stokes
Waynesburg PA

I Am a Man

I wish for the world to know who I am...
I am a man, taken from the land in which I was
To be a laborer for my loved ones.
Now I sit in a modern man made cave. Watching age set in. And life pass me by.
My cave sits in a distch surrounded by hills.
I can only see the sky.
I wish to run to the top of a mountain and
scream my name to the world..
"I am Ralph T. Stokes", "I am Ralph T. Stokes"...
Sitting in this cave I sometime forget I am a man.
The cold air that blows upon me day and night.
It makes me feel like animal...
I am a man, I am a man: This I must repeat to
myself, in order to keep my sanity.
I seek life. I seek a re-newed spirit. I seek peace...
The world is a beautiful place... I never got a
chance to live in it..

Ralph Stokes
Waynesburg PA

Recognize the reality of pain
that a death row prisoner
must sustain.

Recognize the rules and
solitary confinement which
now leaves us with no choice
but defiance.

Recognize the separation from
love one's while being denied
the basic human touch.

Recognize things such as these
should drive the wise to their knees.

As for us who be; We have just
one plea

Oh please Oh please
Why me Why Me

Ralph Stokes
Waynesburg PA

My Final Journey

I'm strapped to a gurney
For my final journey
For all to see
Premeditated homicide
is what it will be
The liquid will flow
Through the I.V. below
My eyes will shut
My lungs will collapse
and my heart will burst
and my body will be driven off
in a pearly white hearse.
In the name of Justice
is what they will cry
but the justice they seek
was nothing more than a lie.
For it was all quite phony
with False testimony
the trial was a sham
yes, one big scam.
For I had no support
From the U.S. Court
who assigned me Mr. Davis
an incompetent attorney
and that's why I'm off
on my Final Journey.

Ronald W. Clark Jr.
Raiford, FL

You're not so heavy
As I rise from bed everyday
its done with great intensity.
Just knowing my purpose is great,
committing to freeing our minds.
You're not so heavy.
Struggling on is an everyday thing
When won it can make our hearts sing
It has great power for most
as it gives a mighty ring.
You're not so heavy.
Oppression has cast its ugly spell upon
the people, and their struggle seem
unbearable sometimes;
but strong people we are.
You're not so heavy.
We all are an extended family.
Our links and roots run deep all across the
plains of the Motherland to the
Northern Shores of Northern America.
People you're not so heavy.
Lets work together to save
the babies, children, people of the land.
Because they're not so heavy.
We've helped and carried
one another, we shared with one another.
We're not so heavy.
You're not so heavy.
We all are not so heavy.
Lets carry each other.

by Lonnie Johnson

I pace back and forth in a straight line,
Thinking of nothing, trying to burn Time.
The soles of my shoes grow thinner each day,
Black hairs on my head are turning to gray.
My sight starts to blur, my eyes are quite sore,
Pacing repeatedly across this hard floor.
A thousand miles have already been paved,
But there's no destination this side of the grave.

Lungs fill with stagnant, polluted burnt air,
The smell of Death is everywhere.
The heart beats weak with question and fear,
Maintaining a life that is going nowhere.
A stomach twisted in a thousand knots,
Lives are discarded and usually forgot.
The blood can boil just under the skin,
When things go wrong 'cuz you never can win.

There is this spinning inside my head,
Without my freedom my life feels dead.
The darkness cloaks the brightest of days,
The chill in the bones is here to stay.
The laughter, the love, the pleasures and pain,
Everything is numb and all feelings retrained.
The hours are endless as Time rushes in,
Left in this wasteland without any friends.

My paces slow with each passing day.
My strides grow short and willpower frays.
The distance traveled is less than before,
Will God ever help to open this door?
The battles aren't over even when won,
'Cuz when least expected, another has begun.
A stoic existence, I will look for tomorrow,
But after awhile there'll be no Time to borrow.
I pace back and forth in a straight line,
Thinking of nothing, trying to burn Time...

Ramon Rogers – San Quentin

by Lynda Lyon to George Sibley - (Executed in Alabama by Electric Chair May 10 , 2002)

In the warmth of my heart I saw you;
Lonely, hopeful, and open to love.
I saw your giving soul,
your honest gaze and tender heart;
I saw a man yearning for love's fulfillment.
And I came.

In the warmth of my heart I see you
emerging, from hope-to a man in love.
I see you complete and content and
confident of life's promises fulfilled.
I see a man who's warrior blood renewed
Because I came.

In the warmth of my heart I see you
In full stature as a celestial Prince.
I see you wise and patient and content
With assurance of the fruit of our love.
I see a Prince who reaches out to his eternal bride -
And I will come.

A POEM BY FREDDIE LEE WRIGHT – (Executed in AL by Electric Chair on March 3rd, 2000)

You touch the dreams within my soul!!!
All of us have this exciting opportunity, called life, to meet each moment, and in the meeting find fulfillment. The
awareness of love brings life to everything.
Why have I no love to love??? I never loved, never, smiled, never dreamed. As it some times seem, I never lived
My thoughts of love are nothing less than someone else's happiness, and dreams.
Though man must love woman to exist, I am was, come, gone but never missed!!!
Why have I no love to love??? Surrounded what was thoughts of love, the heart soars free. I have tossed the corn,
blew out the candle, then broke the bone, but, still I sit all alone.
Pity I have no sympathy for me, nor desire to be free. For without love it will never be.
The rain without the clouds??? Birds flying without wings??? Where have we heard of such things???
Why have I no love to love??? As days turn into years, and tears, a loveless death is the only thing that my empty
heart some times fear. My thoughts no one shall ever see, what the emptiness of no love has left of me.
Not a sound, no one to even lower me into the ground. Unloved, unseen, unclaimed.
Why have I no love to Love??? The goal I have now is to seek love at almost any price, I beg, for a little love, just
once before I die, to know some friend, sister, brother, father, mother or lover cares.
This stage is yet but another page and grave of my dreams and fairy tales and myths. But still, I am, was, come,
gone, but never missed.
                                                       - FREDDIE LEE WRIGHT

IT’s Too Late – Don Wilson Hawkins Jr. (Executed in Texas by Lethal Injection - April 8th, 2003)
    Once upon a time there was a beautiful butterfly
     With colors dazzling and bright,
     Freely floating in the air
     As something shiny caught her sight.

    She decided to land and investigate
    Such an uncommon find;
    Perhaps out of curiosity,
    Just to ease the question of mind.

    It was a small shell,
    Much to the beautiful butterfly's surprise.
    Peering out from inside the colorful little husk
    Were two tiny eyes.

    "Come out!" she said
     In a tone so sweet to his little ears.
     This seemed to excite the little snail
     As well as calm his fears.
 The multi-colored shell had been his security.
 When intruders passed his way.
 So hidden away in the darkness of the tiny shell
 He decided to stay.

"Please don't be afraid,"
 She said, softly, to the shy little thing.
 Come out and play with me as we share
The happiness that friendship brings.

Slowly the tiny snail
Did come out
And together they passed the day
With the many things they talked about.

The beautiful butterfly danced as she spoke
Of the things she had seen from up above,
But became confused when the lonely little snail
Spoke of his new feelings of love.

The beautiful butterfly said
" You can't love me, don't you see?
We're so different with your world being
one of solitude,
While mine is simple and free."

"Goodbye, little friend,"
 Were the last words he heard her say,
 As he watched her
 Turn and fly away.

 As days passed, the beautiful butterfly realized,
 Down deep there was a loving flame that burned;
 So back to the place where they had met,
 She decided to return.

 When she got to the place
 That she remembered so well,
 It's sad to say, but it ends this way,
 For all she found was a broken shell.

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