I wrote the following poem as someone who abhors the death penalty for its cruel senselessness, but lives in one of the places where the death penalty is carried out most often. This poem relates the death penalty to other forms of racist violence through allusions to “strange fruit” and to the structural violence that killed and maimed the lives of many in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.... The winter before Katrina happened, an ice storm where I was living in Kansas shut down the electricity for a week; workers who came all the way from Louisiana fixed our electric lines. When Katrina happened I often thought of those men, wishing I had some way to return the favor; they ended up in my poem because I wanted to celebrate the “rightness” of such acts that provide means for healing and act as an antidote to violence & the impulse to harm. The poem also celebrates other art against death by hatred, racism, violence, for art is a fantastic means by which we might find the courage to discontinue dysfunctional practices such as the death penalty. “Seasonal Still Life, 2005” was first published by Border Senses (http://www.bordersenses.com/) and is part of my collection of poetry “On the Line” that was published by Wings Press in 2010 (http://www.wingspress.com/author.cfm/111/Kamala-Platt/)
Kamala Platt, 1-29-2011
Seasonal Still Life, 2005
Strange fruit hangs once again in Texas.
“Francis, Francis, Francis*,” the protestors chant.
Before their song dies, a million are fleeing the wind on the coast.
There is no homeland security to blanket this state where
bitter fruit swells with toxins riding in on the east wind.
Further east, buds burst after poisons sloshed about, and receded.
And I remember last winter’s white blossoms of short-lived grace
after ice broke branch from trunk across the Kansas countryside,
after workers from Louisiana brought back the lights at
Egged on with environmental errors
made by an admin. with an attitude—
no global warning heeded here . . . no, sir—
Katrina killed a thousand, Rita threatens more . . .
and today, beneath the radar, beneath the fury, the State killed
Her last words are muted by poison that grabs her tongue.
The words left their shape on her mouth afterward.
Strange fruit still hangs in Texas
“Francis, Francis, Francis.” The wind chants.
Billie sings . . .
Strange fruit hangs again, again.
*Francis Newton was executed in Texas on September 14, 2005, one of ten
women executed in the U.S. in the decade following the 1976 death penalty
reinstatement; she had been denied a competent lawyer.