The Three are Free

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Saturday, August 20, 2011


On June 3rd, 1993, shortly after the mutilated bodies of three eight-year-old boys were found in West Memphis, Arkansas, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were arrested as the prime suspects in the murders. Evidence to their "guilt": black hair, Stephen King novels, their love for heavy metal music and rumors that the three boys were Satanists.

After questionable police work, no solid evidence and a trial which painted the boys as Satanic, dangerous and cold-hearted killers, Damien was sentenced to death while Jason and Jessie received life in prison.

Now, after 18 years in prison, the West Memphis Three were released today after accepting an Alford plea. The deal, though not perfect, has granted the three, now in their 30's, a chance to live their lives as free men. Something they haven't been able to do since being incarcerated as teenagers.

When I learned about the WM3 around 1999-2000, I became immediately interested and supportive of their cause. It was very obvious to me that there was an incredible injustice which had fallen upon them. Facts had not sentenced these men to prison and death, but fear and ignorance. A need to point the finger at the invisible monster beneath the bed.

Their deal is not perfect and the three men still have to fight to clear their names of the crimes they've been convicted of, but now, as Damien said in a press conference today, they can do it outside of prison.

Damien, Jason and Jessie after being released August 19th.
The WM3 have regained a huge part of their lives. They can breath fresh air. Walk with their families and hold their loved ones. Feel the rain on their faces while most of us duck for cover. Eat a meal in their own home. Wake up to the morning without seeing brick and bars.

Tonight, I find myself happy to see a day I never thought would come for these men. The Three are free. Sleep well tonight, Damien, Jason and Jessie.

Damien Echols, a free man.
Some of you may not know that Damien is a writer and poet. Some of his work has been published but, as you may have guessed, being published while behind bars and on death row is infinitely harder than being published sitting on the outside.

Here are a few examples of Damien's poetry:

My best friend’s uncle
used to tell us stories
about life in Vietnam.
He smoked hand-rolled cigarettes
that turned his fingers yellow
and sipped whiskey straight from the bottle
as he explained how they’d used chocolate bars
to lure the children to landmines.
He chuckled while describing
the way the “gooks” exploded,
but told us we were too young
to hear about the whorehouses
he’d visit on his days off.

In those days you were something
felt but not seen
as you handed me love letters
written in dead languages.
The chain link fence behind me
made cold diamonds on my back
and your head was on my shoulder
with only one breath between us.
Your hair against my face
smelled like woodsmoke and chocolate,
your lust was raw and new,
as jagged and dangerous as rocks beneath the waves.
Now I’m trapped here like a ghost
haunting places that no longer exist,
feeding on frost and hummingbirds
during long November nights.
~Both pieces appeared in Rattle issue #28 in the winter of 2007.

He didn't know the man beneath the flag

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Sunday, August 14, 2011


Photo courtesy of the Citizen's Voice
Sometimes, moments that dive straight to your core and touch you in a way you never expected happen at the most unexpected times. It's time pausing for a brief instant and singling you out. For that moment, everything aligns and pierces you sharp and exact. Monday, I experienced one of those moments.

It was 11 a.m. when I arrived at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre airport. Nervous about my first flight (though, more nervous about navigating the three airports I would be visiting) I made my way through the doors and checked in. Easy enough. I even managed to meet Katherine, a sweet Irish woman from Dublin, as I stood in line. She was helpful in explaining a few things I was unsure of and even told me stories of her own travels and that of her children.

After moving through security, I headed toward the scent of coffee. Just behind the small vendor, where you could also buy a Budweiser, a group of men had assembled along the wall. All of them were looking out toward the tarmac, but I couldn't see what it was that had caught their attention.

Coffee in hand, I walked to an open spot at the window. There, on the tarmac, was a small plane and a group of Marines standing in formation. They moved forward like clockwork. Exact and angular. Pulling a casket draped in 235 years of blood, sweat, struggle and tears. My hand slowly moved toward my hat, pulling it off and placing it upon the sill of the window.

Next to me, men were silent save for one who I could hear holding back tears. They all looked on at the scene unfolding slowly below. Flags on the backs of motorcycles sitting upon the tarmac rippled and swayed in the wind as more men looked on and saluted the silver casket of the fallen Marine.

As I turned to walk away, Katherine moved toward the window to peer out at the uniformed men placing the casket into the back of the hearse. Most of the men had moved away from the window, but one man remained standing next to Katherine. It was the man who I had heard choked up breaths emanating from.

As the hearse pulled away and the motorcycles followed suit, Katherine and the man turned and moved away from the window. The man walked toward me with his ballcap in hand. I could see the pain in his face and the mist flowing across his eyes.

"Did you know him," I asked.

The man looked back through the window as the last of the procession moved out of sight across the tarmac. With a solemn look, he turned back toward me and said quietly, "No."

He fumbled with his hat and moved on as I looked through the window at the barren concrete where only the plane sat now. There were no sounds except for the quite "no" uttered to me a moment before echoing within my mind. The man, so touched and pained by the loss of the Marine covered with a flag, had made an unforgettable impression upon me. It is this moment in time that I will never forget. A moment where time stopped and aimed its constant flow directly at me to show me something powerful.


The man beneath that flag was Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Dolphin. His wife, Lindsey, and members of Rolling Thunder and Friends of the Forgotten were among those saluting Dolphin as he was carried from the plane. 

Staff Sgt. Dolphin died on July 31st while supporting combat operations Herat Province of Afghanistan. Dolphin died in combat. Story here: Citizens Voice article on Staff Sgt. Dolphin.

Taking a shot of ink: Prose in Pubs

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Monday, August 01, 2011


Jack's Draft House FB page.
It's a Sunday night and all of the parking spots on the corner of Gibson and Prescott are filled. Cruising up the block, I find a space sufficient enough to harbor my pickup. Jack's Draft House sits on the corner. Unmarked, save for a neon sign and a small chalkboard in the doorway. Walking through the glass-paneled door, I see people standing about. Sitting everywhere. They're all intently listening. Some sipping dark stouts. Some with gin and tonics or a bourbon.

Mischelle Anthony is standing near the exposed brick archway which leads to the back room of Jack's reciting one of her pieces. Her words illicit laughter as she smiles behind her glasses, reading on about an unfortunate sounding love interest. Already, I'm a bit upset with myself leaving late and missing the majority of her reading. However, my lack of punctuality aside, I become immediately wrapped up in the aura of the night and the second Prose in Pubs is well under way.

Jack's Draft House FB

Prose in Pubs is the creation of local poet/writer/memoirist Amye Archer. Joined by Jim Warner, another area writer who has been involved in readings and the lit scene for some time, they plan the monthly Prose in Pubs, choosing from some of the best talents the area has to offer.

Last night's roster included the aforementioned Mischelle Anthony, Jennifer Diskin, Matthew Hinton and Brian Fanelli. The atmosphere of Jack's lends itself beautifully to the dynamics of poetry and lit readings. So much so that Amye holds the events sans microphone, a portion of readings that I myself have had a difficult time adjusting to. With the comforting glow of soft lights and the warming architecture and aura amidst the crowd, each reader seemed comfortable. In their element. It seemed to me as if we were all long-time friends joining together to share a few drinks and words slightly tinged with hops and warmed by the sound of genuine laughter.

Each of the readers impressed me last night and left me with a hopeful feeling about the growth of the arts in and around the Northeast PA region. Without events such as Prose in Pubs, the arts and talent present in your own back yard becomes hidden. Glowing treasures only unearthed by chance.

Here's to Amy Archer, Jim Warner, Prose in Pubs and all of the amazing talent showcased last night and in the months to come. Bottoms up, my fellow ink-bleeders.

Jack's Draft House FB

-Follow Prose in Pubs and Jack's Draft House on Facebook.

-Read the interview with Amye Archer about Prose in Pubs at

-Be sure to visit Amye Archer and Brian Fanelli at their blogs located in my "Less Frustrated Folk" section.

-The next Prose in Pubs is scheduled for Sept. 25th. Stay tuned for details.