Writing

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

Mannering fear,

And

Your darkened space

Tempting benevolence

To the blind case

Who sees your blackness

As consonance,

I curse you with Praise

In the awe of my eye;

As I ponder your starry maze

Tempting your blackness with I.

Silence

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;

Waiting, connections,

Truths uncovered,

That you did not want to know;

Poetry, ego, change, humility,

New complexions, new horizons,

New recognition born

In silence.

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. . . .

 

Poems from the Wayne Scott Unit Summer 2022 (written with the nub of a pencil on borrowed scraps of paper)
 

Homage


I saw a bird today
Soaring where caged birds sing,
And in harmony, I sang,
“Glory to wind & wings.”
Though skies gift this moment’s key
The mystic was unlocked
When mind and song’s fluttering
Escaped will, for the bird’s wings;
Consciously pushing a journey
Away, beyond the caged birds’ singing.

Calling Home


Calling home
To a forsaken throne,
Alone & unsung.
Made duty belong
Erected, a baritone,
Stoic in verse on song
Calling home.

Jointly Flawed Blood


Romeo & Juliet
confused by degrees,
by chosen deeds
steeped in misery
And by Love’s treachery
of payment to history’s
printed Love Song.

Framed


Portrait, perfect smears,
Concussioned out tears

Of my bordered “reals”
Encased from imperfect years.

Connections


Conduits, Negatives, Positives,
Bleeding electricity from presence.


Treetops, Branches, Trunks,
Rooting breath out of sense.


Mind, Body, Soul,
Gifting of God’s sense of presence; hence . . .
LOVE!

Conditions


Pierced Mind
With thorny
Rose
Incisions
Twinkling eyes,
With poison
Rooting where
The Heart lies—
Dormant, woke
Out of disguise,
With satin woven
Barbed wire
Strapping hands
Coupled,
Retired,
With quenching fire
Burning thirst
Out of
Loin’s desire,
All conspiring
With Nature’s
Demand
For feet to expire.

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: