Death Penalty

by Alan Balter
(Northbrook, Illinois)

Death Penalty

Sonny Johnson’s home was on the street
Sharing space with rats who nibbled at his feet
Until he moved his blanket to the county jail
‘Cause someone said he stabbed a white female

He faced the court without a scrap of money
So no lawyer of renown defended Sonny
A jury found him guilty in two hours
And no one questioned if the fault were his or ours

No delays or stays of execution
How sweet they are, revenge and retribution
A pork chop and beans sat cooling in a bowl
While a portly priest sanctified Sonny’s soul

They strapped him to a gurney hard and fast
Two witnesses looked away, eyes downcast
Beads of sweat on Sonny’s forehead glistened
“Ain’t done the deed; how come y’all don’t listen?”

Sonny shuddered once before his heart stopped beating
Nary a soul mourned his tragic life so fleeting
With other poor men, they put him in the ground
And no stone marker graced his burial mound

Sonny’s fate isn’t hard to justify
Some Holy Books support an eye for an eye
But does anyone care how many men are taken
With the chilling chance that we may be mistaken?

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