Published, Social Justice


For Vernon Allridge

Texas says that a deliberate crime
and a future threat must merit
death. Close that book, no matter
what chapters could come next.

For Vernon, whose last words
were full of ardor for his family,
who was strapped down
and jabbed up in both arms—

for Vernon, who thanked his
brothers for sticking with him—
who asked forgiveness for his sin,
to whom the victim’s sister gave it,

there was possibility. He was a poet,
an artist, a teacher, a safeguard
on death row, a calming force,
with so many supporters but

none of this was enough to save him.
Justice was deserved, but was it served?
Why are they doing this? What
will it fix?
his brother wondered.

Vernon and I, we don’t write
happy endings—we are poets
in the practice of nuance, humans
in the practice of finding more,

but poet or not, the question remains
the same: what does it fix to nix
a possibility, even an impossible one—
what do we gain with this loss?

Third place winner of the 2023 Justice and Mercy Poetry contest hosted by Catholic Mobilizing Network.

Originally published in Rise Up Review