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National Poetry Month: A Poem to Decry Execution

By Ariana Costakes

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.

Related: Darrell Grayson executed in Alabama without a DNA test

Related: Innocence Project Urges Arkansas Supreme Court to Stay Execution of Stacey Johnson and Grant DNA Testing that Could Prove Innocence

5 Comments

  1. Daniel Majhor

    What a shame, the justice system rewards crooked prosecutions.

  2. Pearl Deleon

    So they never have tested the DNA to this day on Grayson? I don’t understand why you would you need permission to run a DNA from the court and why it would be denied? Makes no sense.

  3. Sandra Smillie

    My heart breaks for this young man. It’s criminal not to check DNA. But worse the prosecutor may himself by professional neglect- taken an innocent persons life.
    God be with this man’s family.
    I in Tasmania have a son in the same situation, thank god we have abolished the death penalty, it gives me time to prove his innocence.
    Same problem, DNA proofed his innocence, no legal aid, no lawyer, just a mother representing her son.

    I’m saddened by this man’s death. Truely saddened…

  4. Darrell B. Grayson was the Chairman of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty and my friend. I investigated his case, found the item which should have been tested for DNA and interviewed persons with him the night of the crime. I also typed up his poems, shared his last meal and witnessed his execution.

    • Lucinda Hites-Clabaugh

      Thank you for doing that for him. I only wish more could be done to stop the individuals who allowed such unfairness of process, to put them behind bars and held to account somehow. They should never be allowed to practice law again, ever.

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