A “letter” from death row


It’s no secret that there are some very talented men and women on death rows around the country. We’ve published some of their works here in the past and we have some new work we’d like to share.

This poem was written by Steven Nelson, who is on death row in Texas. He has been corresponding with two lovely women in France for the past two years, and recently sent them 45 (!) poems he has written.

We thought we’d share “A Letter” with you. We loved it, and believe it is another example of how misguided we are to insist on locking people away, or even worse, executing them, because we feel they are beyond redemption. When you look at the artwork, the poetry, and the essays that are written by prisoners on death row, you know how wrong it is to condemn them, or any human being as worthless.


A letter slid under my cold steel cell door reminds me that I am not without friends.

How I have hungered for word from you. I anticipated your letter, it warms and enlivens me and I take comfort in it.

I wonder what made me take that first step and write ? What magnetic field first drew us

Together ?
Destiny ?
Fate ?
Karma ?
Predestination ?

Recalling with a smile how cautious you were in the beginning.
Asking questions…

How does it feel to live on Death Row ?
What is solitary confinement like ?
How do you stand the desolation ?
What are your thoughts ?

In the beginning you were a stranger, but somehow so familiar.
Your supportive words reminded me of who I am.
Seeing life’s simple beauty through your eyes moved me out of the darkness.
You brought depth and breadth again to what being human is.

Our friendship was not simple moment, but a cumulative process, it required time, demanded patience.
Reading your letter, for a few moments I am enveloped in the warmth of your words.

I discover the lack of boundaries. And yet, I realize memory isn’t quite enough.
At day’s end.
As I close my eyes and relax, I feel so insignificant, so helpless.

Yes, your letter reminded me that in your eyes I have worth and meaning.
Your friendship is cherished, keeps me centred, gives me strength.

Yet in deep contemplation – holding a magnifying glass to this reality, I realise that, in the end, I walk this road alone!

Steven Nelson

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