A Condemnation of Capital Punishment in Three Parts

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On December 10, Brandon Bernard became the ninth person to

be executed by the federal government in 2020. Bernard was

convicted in a 1999 murder case involving a white couple. Despite

not being the actual assailant, and numerous pleas and petition

signatures for his execution to be stayed, he was killed by lethal

injection in Terre Haute, Indiana. His alleged last words were,

“I'm sorry. That's the only words that I can say that completely capture

how I feel now and how I felt that day.”


A trio of drugs convene

within a syringe

to verify their roles in

ending a life

the state no longer values

drug one is assigned to paralyze its target

and stop the air supply

drug two is assigned to halt

its target’s heartbeat

drug three is assigned to sedate the criminal

and convert their status to cadaver

because what is the range

to be considered humane

for a nation that specializes in

confining its undesirables to chains

and shoots and maims

and renames the citizens it cages

as numbers?


a bitter bigot has lost his job

but before he leaves the keys

to a [white] house that never

should have been in his possession

he wants a succession of closed caskets

to be the end result of open cases

where Black lives hang in the balance

his holiday wishes consist of

a pardon and a pear tree

for every white man that aided

in his democratic heist

and a toxic farewell serum

to seep into the skin of

every onyx-toned inmate

sentenced to vanish into

the ether.


lethal injections boast

the highest amount of botched executions

it is not the fry of an electric chair

nor the suffocation of the gas chamber

nor the strangulation of lynching

it does not blow up a body

like a bullet barrage from a firing squad


the poison festers in the bloodstream

as an incomplete mission

leaving its victim to writhe in agony

until another dose can be applied

and the state will say

it is a more compassionate way

to erase a life

but where’s the grace

in attempting to play god,

failing, then doubling down

on slaughter when offering redemption

was never considered?

About the Author

Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be.