by Lucas Peterson



Oklahoma State Penitentiary, 2003.



Greensville Correctional Center, 2004.



South Carolina Department of Corrections, 2009.



Uunited States Penitentiary, 2003.



Stateville Correctional Center, 1994.



Iowa State Penitentiary, 1963.



Texas State Penitentiary, 2006.



Sing Sing Correctional Facility, 1963.


What will you have?


How sweet and lovely Häagen-Dazs doth taste My guilty pleasure since I was a child But temporal pleasure moves to my waist Body becomes to mine own self reviled And so it is with great relief I take My final bites of heavenly ice cream I shot a woman fishing on the lake A murder my soul shall ne’er redeem. I really shouldn’t—sugar is, they say, like shards of glass that doth poison one’s blood “Just one more bite,” I think with great dismay; Whenever I binge eat it kills my mood. I can’t resist. My will’s never been strong; A lifetime on the hips shan’t last that long.

JAMES HUDSON That’s what you get for fucking with my land, Driving your truck up and down my driveway. Fences make good neighbors; as does my hand Around this shotgun blasting you away. Have you ever tried the saltine challenge? It’s deceptively hard and to this day I ne’er could complete the six-cracker binge I can’t do more than five, to my dismay. On my last day alive I shan’t tempt fate Or give the gods more reason to compel my damnéd soul or dry my poor palate So I’ll take one cracker with me to Hell. Six Cokes should wash it down; and as I slurp, I’ll pray my final words won’t be a burp.

THOMAS TRESHAWN IVEY When to the deafening silence I resign and my heartbeat and breathing made to stop, I’ll say a prayer and think before I dine: I shot a businessman and then a cop. And then I’ll bite into this sprinkled The crumbs tumbling onto my bright orange clothes. Mercy I might have if I had shown it, But I sent two men to their last repose. I mumble “sorry,” but no one can hear My voice behind the thick reinforced glass. My eyes lose focus and I disappear, And into silent sessions I do pass. I still can taste the milkshake, sweet and cold. The world is safer now; or so I’m told.

LOUIS JONES, JR. That night I drove onto the Air Force base And saw Miss Tracie sitting by the laundry, Then took a tire iron to her face, I never dreamt I’d be in such a quandary. And now judgment day has come, I suppose, The noxious cocktail they will soon inject, My heavy eyelids will begin to close; Upon my wasted life I genuflect. I watch with dread the clock that counts the time; I ask for peaches, nectarines, and plums. I savor each, for when the hour doth chime, May sweetness linger even as death comes I may be wicked; precious life I’ve stolen, But I’ll meet my maker with a clean colon.

JOHN WAYNE GACY Two loves I have in rape and strangulation A desperate longing nurses my disease What’s in my yard defies all expectation Remains of men I murdered: thirty-three. I feel the system really let me down; I’m on death row, you all should be elated! But now I’m John Gacy, the “killer clown,” And that’s a moniker I’ve always hated. The magnitude of what I’ve done shall pale Under the mock of red nose and face paint My sentence: death. Passed down; no thought of bail. The evil’st men shall crown me patron saint. My last request: a tub of KFC. Something heavy and wicked just like me.

VICTOR FEGUER I live forgotten, cruel though it may be, As I shall die, convicted for the killing A doctor in the summer of ‛60- A caper confusing as it is chilling I claimed another man did shoot the doc, Then I killed him and dumped him in the river The jury didn’t buy it; now I’m locked In jail awaiting death. It makes me shiver To think that the true killer’s roaming free Of course, I could be lying; what say you? Entrusted with the charge of hanging me, Might I be innocent? Might others, too? A single olive; may hunger distract From when the hangman’s noose my neck doth crack.

JACKIE BARRON WILSON That I’m in Texas shan’t surprise to hear, Our lust for blood impossible to sate. Of executed in this land so dear, 40 percent are in the Lone Star State. The five-year-old I raped and murdered haunts My conscience; not for reasons you think, though. I really should have taken a short jaunt Across the border to New Mexico. There I would be free to live out my days In solitary, my mind free to wander. Instead my veins shall soon be set ablaze, My breathing, circulation rent asunder. O Death! For you I eat an onion raw Outsmarted by the fickleness of law.

EDDIE LEE MAYS It’s technically not really a meal, This pack of cigarettes that I requested. But without delicious smoke, all food feels a puerile act in which I am not vested. I’d rather have nothing in me at all Than be denied that sweet and poison’d air A sacred pause ‘fore marching down that hall at Sing Sing where they’ll strap me to that chair. “I’d rather fry than live my life in here,” I spat before the judge during my trial. The judge sat up and brought his gavel near, Said, “very happy to oblige” and smiled. I’ve no regrets; I’ll see you all in Hell And take with me one last drag of Pall Mall.

Photographer: James Reynolds at jwreynolds.co.uk