Poetry and Prose

From the pen of Delbert Tibbs (RIP, 1939-2013)

Delbert Tibbs

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It is the season, again

The trees are green with leaves and flowers bloom
‘Ole man Sun shines strong
The dark sleep of winter is fleeing away and
Something awakens in me

For Troy Anthony Davis

What I do not know
What I do know, for sure
What I feel

I will deal with the last thing first and that which is worst, what I feel
I feel really bad, Troy, really bad

Sad, too, about what the State of Georgia did
although they had so many more humane options

They displayed such a flagrant lack of Christian charity
or charity by any name, blame is always easy to
but that system showed such a lack of mindfulness or any sign
of the light that is thought to be
The concomitant of right thought which is the parent of right action.

What I do know, for sure, is
That Georgia has behaved this way before when issues of color and of life and death
have come before Her burdened bar.

I think of Warren McCleskey and others ---sisters and brothers for whom the Woman
With the Blindfold removed the damn thing from her eyes, then made her decision.
what I do not know
Is who killed Officer MacPhail

And I am of the opinion, strongly held, that neither does the State of Georgia
Or an even worst possibility is that they do know but decided to go… with you because
they held
You for more than twenty years
and what “self-respecting public servant”
could ever admit to a mistake of such gross
negligence and incompetence.

We may never know, for sure, who murdered
Officer MacPhail
but we know for sure who murdered you - niceties of language be damned.

Again, to say what I feel.

I personally believe you were innocent as charged
I feel you were too real to have lied all these years
and even laying on that death gurney
yet you proclaimed your innocence and had friendly
Words to say to the family of the man that they took your life for.

Again, I feel that your life that was sacrificed
Will be a loud call to all who stand for fairness and justice.
I know that your death will move millions more to say No!
as they did for you.

You showed the world how a man could die with dignity and calmness
at the hands of people who seem to know neither.
you were brave and beautiful, My Brother, and you gave us the courage to fight on until
that better day.

Tray-von Is. (ode to Trayvon Martin)

Tray-von IS my son – I mean existentially speaking. he man – the same as i am; he black like me. he man same as the Dr. King. he man same as ten thousand other brothers who fell while strolling through the hell of someone’s rolling imagination . Black like me, like Barack. like millions gone on & like the millions who remain. The one who did the deed most foul wants to howl innocent – not knowing that he killed his brother-man. Born of a woman just the same and the son of a man; yes. Tray-von is my son.


Nourish what Philistines call impractical
     & be not sane in the face of foolishness
Listen to the music heard in running water &
     the sounds of weeping waves & laughter
Salute sunbeams with humility & happiness
And happily greet the day & pray a good evening to the moon
Serve little children and old people
Be a Friend with the wind
Let your feet tread lightly
     but firm

See the seldom discerned
Be joyful in living
Light the world

mosaic graphicI NEED A POEM

I need a poem, need a poem, a master poem, once and for all
I need a poem to destroy poetry

And break those iron bars

A poem to make the stars weep

I need a poem to trouble the sleep of the chained, some words
and strikes of magic to be heard through all the worlds

Power sounds to hurl all wrong to appropriate places, a poem to
make spaces for feeling and being
An easy but invincible poem

For the sick and the lame and the maimed in mind, for the blind
with eyes, for the deaf with ears, a poem of peace in war years.

And a poem of war when war is Holy

For the unborn and the dead, a poem to be read when all books
are blank pages, a poem for judgment day and

A poem for the ages and epochs and eras
My poem, your poem, our poem

For all and it is



          BY GOD I AM




Gary, this is written some hours before your scheduled execution; you say murder and you know best. Well, Brother, I say these words to your spirit, which obviously is not on lockdown. A locked spirit could not have touched these thousands of hearts as you have and we have fought for you. I too have been near to where you are but our kinship is greater than what the Death machine can make. And those who know not the sacred thing called life may break and destroy the physical body but your warrior spirit will never Die. You are a part of the One who made the Sun and the Stars and the laughter of children and love – I don’t tell you to be strong. Because I know you are – nor do I say don’t cry or fret because at times even strong men do that. But I do believe that what is, is and what ain’t is not. Likewise I believe that the Judge will be Judged, the Governor will be Governed, and the Executioner will be Executed. And I believe that One who is totally righteous will Come and judge and restore all things and I believe you, Gary, will be a witness.

Peace and Love – Peace and Love.

mosaic graphicOn The Streets of NYC

On the streets of NY, anything goes
Flows like the Hudson where Whitman sat, Baraka spat
And the Bridge where they say Rollins found his horn
Some say here is where Be Bop was born
Where the World Trade Center stood
and stands still in the memory of the World
NYC, like ancient Babylon, all things sweet are here
The bitter, too
And here I am on 29th and Park Avenue, sitting on the blue
NYPD saw horses, watching the people go by
It should be the Capital, the $$$ is here and some of the
Loveliest women on the planet – everybody knows they flock
Breakfast in the Village
Lunch in Harlem and tonight
Dinner in Queens, NYC

Overheard in a Jail

Have no faith, I mean the Bible.
I use to, before this Jail.
But this cell, God, you know
I mean church. I used to go
Almost every Sunday. But I got
grown, you know. I like to drink
Drink too much. I don’t know
But I think, I don’t know
But I think, I don’t know
Maybe if I get outta this Jail
I believe if I get bail I might go. Sunday,
I might go, Sunday. I might go to church
You know. I might go. But you know. I know the Church ain’t
The Lord is everywhere, at least
That is what I believe
You know?

mosaic graphicThe Compassion of George Ryan

I think of this Man
the former governor of the great state of Illinois
that was his job back then
when the new millennium began
Just about two thousand years since Jesus came

And before this Man was caught up in the net
that some claim is justice
Now he sits behind the armed walls of prison
For alleged crimes that others
Would have just gotten a slap on the hands for
but we who have been
Hosted on Death Row think we know
the real deal is otherwise

His was the pragmatic politics and he
understood the art of compromise
Said he believed in the death penalty all of his life
And that “The punishment should fit the crime”

And he was the State’s Chief of yea or nay
Having the final say
of who lived and who died
Indeed, was required to sign a paper
called a death warrant for those the State
Deemed not worthy of life

This in a society rife with inequality and contradiction
and sometimes Confusion about ultimate things
like life and death
As all human societies are

Maybe because men and women are not as Gods
Although this delusion is prevelant

The Governor was mere hours from calling it a day
and signing the death warrant of one Anthony Porter
When young truth-seeking journalists made the discovery
the state had somehow missed

Another person was guilty for the crime
for which this innocent man was about to die

And as it is not uncommon
the Governor had a conversion experience and he wondered
How many more languished there
On the Row
in the House of Death
Awaiting that final striking of the clock
and were innocent

And he wondered
Would he cavalierly sign his name to the paper
that would give the state
We the People
the right to snatch their lives away

For divine guidance he prayed and thought
As he never had before

And he rose up and said

He would not go with the prevailing wind
He saw, he said
That the system was broken

He tried to fix it with expert help
but their testimony was that
It could not be done
by any human one or even many
Couldn’t make it error proof
like a mathematical certainty

So he dropped for a moment
the politics of pragmatism
and did the hard thing knowing that
vitriol and blame would assail him from many quarters
He obeyed conscience and The Christ
Who is said to dwell in the human heart

And he commuted and pardoned
Pardoned those who had been dealt unfair blows
by the system he represented
Commuted those who may or may not have been
guilty of the sin that Cain was

Some said it was conscience
Buddha says
Right thought and right action
Cynic says
No good deed goes unpunished
And the Poet says
he don’t know

Maybe so
But this compassionate Man sits now behind
those armed walls
that he never expected to see from the inside
Crucified for daring to stand as a just Man
For what men ought to stand for

Even when standing brings pain
(My Man, Ray Krone*, says even if you can’t stand tall
you still got to stand)
I suspect and I would bet
In the end
He will be glad

I salute his courage

*Ray Krone, fellow exoneree, the 100th person to be exonerated from death row in the U.S.


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