Today, as part of our ongoing celebration of National Poetry Month, we are featuring a poem by Darrell Grayson, an Alabama man who was convicted of murder and executed in 2007 despite pleas for DNA testing to determine his guilt or innocence.
Grayson was only 19 in 1982 when he was sentenced to death for the murder of an 86-year-old woman two years prior. His attorneys say he falsely confessed to the crime after being intimidated by police.
Alabama executed Grayson on July 26, 2007; hours after the Supreme Court denied a motion for DNA testing in his case.
While on death row in Holman Prison in 2005, Grayson published Against Time, a collection of his poetry. The following poem from the collection refers to a catered dinner for state officials and the warden that is held at Holman Prison on the day of an execution.
The Caretaker’s Feast
By Darrell Grayson
A feast fitting for mortal souls ill-defined
Shall you partake in good cheer
The loss of souls with wine?
I am weary and questions
Of this sort do baffle the mind. They
Take the Compassion out of the spine.
Ask yourselves, gentlemen,
What is loveliness of spirit?
And what constitutes the divine?
Life’s journey has surely shown you, that
Every wick and rake can tell you true
How a Spartan life is nothing to rue.
The following suit is perfected for you;
That souls are infinitely caressed,
For godly men are imminently blessed.
I’ve stood in the spring of this youth,
With my shadowy brow and social means, but
Now I’m a firmament of frivolity it seems.
Dying men don’t shout here’s mud in your eye
No, I decry it’s like this by and by.
Tell me true, should I go wrong,
Then nail my feet to the potter’s stone.
I’m not a child—I’m grown.
Just a verse in the hangman’s song.
It’s a valid supposition mortal men know.
Those of means get weak and never grow old.
Your aversion burns painfully low.
What is hate other than ignorance in defeat?
A feast of diabolical treat from a cat bird seat.
Hate like kissing babies’ cheeks.
The fires of hell would not deter your sleep.
The wicked ruse is deceptively neat,
Men debased ‘fore death in the keep.
If they should die before I wake,
See their eyes on your china plate,
And I’ll drink their tears to your hellish fate.
Your judgment should be like chalk on a slate.
This is spurious of unrefined minds,
I must away while the sun’s in decline,
To fashion necklaces of hemp,
For your damned have run out of time.
On the day of an execution at Holman Prison in Alabama there is a special catered dinner for state officials and the warden, who is the “hangman”.
Purchase Against Time here. All proceeds go to the Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty.