ArchivesSite MapSubmitOur GangHot Sites
tearing the rag off the bush again
Shadowland PDF E-mail
for Stanley Tookie Williams
December 29, 1953 - December 13, 2005
after the State of California
murdered him by lethal injection SHADOWLAND


I am flying
to South Carolina
(which is true)
the day after
the execution
(which is true)
and in my dream
I can't figure out
how to get my brother
from Atlanta to Batesburg
can he take the bus?
or do I have to fetch him?
then in the dream I remember:
my brother is dead


Long Live Tookie Williams!


5 pm

The last of the sun
explodes a canon
into the sky
gold and violent
swollen and red
speeding clouds
pass the vast prison

A giant maw
whose tongue is asphalt
whose teeth are steel
whose crenelated walls
are poison yellow
whose moat is filled
with buzzards in uniform

Its vastness weighs as
much as the entire earth
if the poles tipped
it would fall away


On either side of the bridge
are competing monstrosities
twin pillars of capital and state
parentheses of power
arcs of fire and brimstone
dual curses on the land
Chevron and San Quintin
vulture and vampire
regurgitating industrial
sputum and human waste


Executives! Presidents!
Bosses! Chiefs!
Chairs! Directors!
Corporate cannibals!
Lawful criminals!
fat on flesh for
breakfast dinner lunch
fat with signing bonus
fat with severance bonus
grossly fat with Protocol
Policies By-Laws Mission
Statements & Strategic Goals
please stand and
identify yourselves
Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!


Dear Governor:
I am writing to request

Dear Governor:
I beg you to grant

Dear Governor:
In the name of God

Dear Governor:
For fuck's sake


The sunset is long
it pours its bloody light
over the prison walls
the windows glower
behind the closed gate
the gate is closed
we can't get in
they can't get out
all day men wait inside
while we wait out


7 pm

at the prison's
iron grate

a drum sounds
like a heartbeat

Klegg lights rise
brighter than stars

satellite dishes
hover and glow

a dozen full moons
a billion wounds


A boiled face stares down
at mine his eyes revolving
like dice he'd like to ask
me a few hostile questions
he has 10 seconds to humiliate me
Exculpatory evidence I shout
but his listeners don’t
care for details


Long Live Tookie Williams!


9 pm

The crowd is gathering
like the ions of a storm
all ages all colors
compress together
humble multiples
rising rising
a roiling sea
a thundering cloud


Others are waiting too
savoring the taste
of human sacrifice

It’s a long night
under the chandeliers
the governor waits
to go to bed
his wife waits
for him to go to bed

See the blood red
petals drop on linen
like an ax on a neck


How many ways
to kill a man
slowly slowly
the common way
deprivation slowly
humiliation slowly
degradation slowly
slowly slowly
poison water
poison air

And for the others?
chair rope
bullet dope

The executioner?
never forget him
for a minute
his lonely socks
his cold coffee
he struggles through
this night of wonder
Kill! Kill! Kill!

Sleep well, he’s told
it is the people’s will


In every language
the gods have spoken
even the atheists
take their turn to cry
and decry everyone
is crying and decrying
as the night creeps
toward the last hour

We listen hopefully
at 10:30 we are hopeful
at 10:35 we are hopeful

I study the blank dark sky
the dark black waters
tracing the rationales
of hope:
he couldn't he
shouldn't he


Didn't Tookie crawl
out of hole?

Won't they make him
crawl back in?


11:15 pm

A man flips open
his cell phone
listens and turns
to console me

I feel my face crack
like the surface
of a frozen pond
the weight of hours
years months weeks
has broken my face

I make a little cry
like a little bird


“Therefore, based
on the totality of
Williams' request...
is denied...”
underlined so
there can be
no mistake
or confusion

Didn’t Judge Thayer go insane
after Sacco and Vanzetti
were murdered by his watch?


It’s midnight
it's 12:01
then 12:02

Will stallions breach the walls
meteors burn the sky
earthquakes open the ground
and swallow Shadowland?

Instead there are children's voices
among the chiseled silences of time

Is he dead yet?

The rabbi tells us
we must wait to know
what we already know


The condemned man
(do not call him that)
was given new jeans
(do not call him that)
offered a last meal
(not to exceed $50)
the condemned man
(do not call him that)
was asked if he had




Surely he has been
strapped to the gurney

But is he dead?


Officially now
it is official
he is dead to life

Keep reading
start singing

We mount the stage
and sing the Song of Songs
tears flow backwards
into a black well of grief
and life stretches before us
from one holy abyss to another

I wrap my arms around
Crystal and Angela
heroines of the movement
our voices waver

We'll walk hand in hand

Everyone knows the song
and someday flutters
like a mourning veil
between us and the metal bars


The cold sinks in our bones
but we cling to the pavement
that leads to and from
the edifice of doom
to and from the lifeless
body and the rows of men
wakened by the message
flying through the corridors
pummeling the massive
concrete block to block
cell to cell groaning


The message circles
the world at the
speed of light
papers in Paris
Sydney London Milan
Caracas Delhi Capetown
Tokyo Rio New York
ready their headlines


Who is this man?
A man, I say

They killed a man
that is enough to say


Stanley Tookie Williams
born raised fed
kissed spanked fled
schooled ruled bled

In prison the man
found a mind
hidden behind
the walls of
his head

Words begat thoughts
thoughts begat thoughts

The man had a godly idea:
If I can make hell
I can unmake it

The man set to work

Tookie is unmaking hell
the children cried
from the infernal
projects barrios
tenements hoods
the cry rang out

He is unmaking hell

It's too late
the lawyers said

Hell is good
the judges said

This is hell
the warden said

Go to hell
the victims said

And the children
cried and cried


1:15 am

Barbara steps
through the gate
Barbara has a statement
Barbara has been inside
with Stan all day

She has seen him walk
into the death chamber

She has watched them
strap him down

She has watched them
fumble with needles
and tubes

She has watched while
they snuffed him out
like a flame


I embrace Barbara
How are you?

the most ludicrous
of questions

German TV asks me
Numb I say

numb dumb mum


2 am

Fred needs a ride
Jason needs a ride
we stumble past
the quiet houses
of San Quintin cove
under the freeway
along the dark road
where tonight we
have come and gone
betrayed by hope
rage energy time
nothing has saved him

Two thousand
witnesses to
their will
our impotence


Over the bridge
Chevron twinkles
like an evil fairyland
the pit never sleeps
unlike prison where
life is only sleep
oil can't afford it
business can't afford it
trains ships are waiting
stocks wars are waiting


That night I dream
of my brother and
the next day I fly
to South Carolina
(which is true)
the day after
the execution
(which is true)
on the plane
I start to
thaw and weep
and remove
my notebook
to write


Long Live Tookie Williams!

< Prev   Next >