Dennis Dowthitt

The girls are young buttonwoods, he decides.
Their mottled trunks will shed their camouflage:
a tan and silvery fuzz of bark
that peels back to expose the skin.

While dragging
her to the rear of his truck he thinks, I’m fucking sick
of selling cars in Humble.

He’d walked this pipeline for hours as a kid,
see-sawing from foot to foot. Humming.

He knew all the best places
where the trees grew together tightly,
arthritic against the scud. The rottenest of trees
would hollow out, overnight it seemed.

In a woody crevice he’d hidden a tin race car
and a cheap bottle of beer, tied in a bundle with rope.

(At the bowling alley she'd glanced at him
and his son. He’d felt young, like a buck.)


I am so
sorry for what y'all had
to go through. I am so
sorry for what all of
you had to go
through. I can't imagine


losing two children.
If I was
y’all, I would have
killed me. you
know? I am really
so sorry about it


I really am. I got to go
sister, I love
you. Y’all take care
and God bless you
Gracie was beautiful
Tiffany was beautiful.


You had some lovely
girls and I am
sorry. I don’t
know what to
say. All right, Warden,
let’s do it.


The bundle’s still there in the damp mulch 
and rodent shit. The race car’s wheels are frozen up, 
the paintwork chipped. Fucking ruined, he thinks and throws 
her against the pipe where a small crack 
pisses water. 

Nothing is working right today.

His son’s trousers are saturated around the zipper
and the wind is raining seeds in spiralling parachutes, 
their pubescent shed irritating 
his eyes until they swell, weepy and red.



Sarah Jane Barnett is a writer and book reviewer who lives in Wellington. Her work has appeared in a range of literary journals such as LandfallSport and Takahe and on the e-zines CorditeSnorkel and Turbine. Her poem 'The Drop Distance' was selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2007. Sarah is currently completing a creative writing PhD in the field of ecopoetics.

Barnett comments: ‘This poem is part of a series about death row executions in Texas. It is based on the police report of Dowthitt's crime, and the last words of Dennis Dowthitt. The poem tries to reconcile the two different depictions or stories of the crime. The poem was orignially published in Hue & Cry 4: Champion This! – The Biography Issue.’

Poem source details >



Sarah's website The Red Room
Hue & Cry