Before his trial, when Terence was trying to stay sane while confined in a padded cell in the county jail, he started composing poetry. He discovered a real passion for combining words, rhythm, and introspection. Ever since, he has worked on his craft, refining his voice, building his vocabulary, and teaching himself the rules of English grammar that he did not learn during his abbreviated time in school as a child.
The prestigious Harvard Law Review recently published an essay by Terence, reflecting on the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in his case: Reflection of Andrus v. Texas.
The essay is a firsthand account of the experience of learning about the favorable Supreme Court decision that affected him directly. In the essay, Terence looks back at his direct experience of systemic iniquities in our judicial system that left his fate in the hands of an appointed lawyer with no regard for him and no interest in fighting for his life. He is grateful to the forward-looking Harvard Law Review for seeking out his opinion, which gave him the opportunity to reflect on the judicial system that initially failed him so badly. The essay also shows how Terence’s perspective has evolved and become more hopeful even while he continues to exist under the shadow of a death sentence.
Here are some of the many poems he has written while incarcerated on Texas’s death row:
It Is Time
It is time that ferrets out the truth
And it is time that deludes folklore;
Silence, the age that knows naught of time.
Time is the casting of the heartbeat,
Slowly molding pelts to guard the rhythm—
That is encased in the dance of age.
It is the chiming sigh on the wind;
The laugh that grows hoarse into a cough;
Breathing age and the sighs on the wind.
Even seeing takes a beating from time,
In kind: an erosion fates acts to mime
Blindly, dumbstruck by the age of time.
Night Sky & I
To the stella-filled night
Pandering to the sightseer
With your decorated silence
Your darkened space
To the blind case
Who sees your blackness
I curse you with Praise
In the awe of my eye;
As I ponder your starry maze
Tempting your blackness with I.
The edge of existence:
quiet, meditation, desire
In all forms;
The edge of speech:
Effects, art, essence—
That flows from the pen,
The body, the sun, the moon,
And stars; and silence—
The greatest art.
The surface reality
Is different when written
In the language of silence—
The bystander to writing;
That you did not want to know;
Poetry, ego, change, humility,
New complexions, new horizons,
New recognition born
To Love in a Sense
Breathe, for life is still beating—
Through the epicentral quake
In your core’s unique heartstring
Air drums beat into your ache.
Feel, for feelings will fill you
Unlike thoughts that have been thought
And every word brought to cue,
Solely your fight you have fought.
Look, for your eyes that want to see
Beyond your heart’s appearance.
Listen to your heart’s decree
That speaks to your endurance.
A sense to sense is ceaseless
So, not to feel is senseless.
Gone But Not Forgotten
As the sun cascades into a lightless oblivion,
retreating in the wake of a voiceless foot fallen,
the shadow of its beauty is retained forever as an exhibition
Gone but not forgotten.
Sprouting into spring; dreading the due of its To Be sprung,
one lathers in the midst of its colorful witherings; raining
the leaves and befallen the petals, the season finalizes
its beauty from blossoming. The leap into such beauty is
Gone but not forgotten.
Such pearls, floating to be the forethought on my bank of memories;
fighting the tides of time just to stay afloat;
images sinking, but reemerging with the help of
constrained emotions. The essence of the reminiscence
may be gone, but not forgotten.
The last soul to glimpse the defeated smiling faces;
radiant even in their walks to death
thrown behind my eyes, and logged as a favorite catch.
A Brother, my fellow human being led away to death’s awakening,
Gone but not forgotten. . . .
One of Terence’s poems, “Black Rose,” was set to music by composer Keith Allegretti.
Here is a recent performance by Ryan McKinny, accompanied by composer Allegretti,
which was produced during the pandemic: