The Last Meal of Thomas J. Grasso

Two dozen steamed mussels

split open like coin purses,

revealing the buttery brine

of their spare change.

Two dozen steamed oysters

with a quartered lemon.

A double cheeseburger

from Burger King.

A half-pound of spaghetti,

al dente enough to fight back,

beneath a red sauce, generously

basiled and sprinkled with cheese.

This is why he asked

for execution: one fine meal.

A half-dozen barbecued

spare ribs in Oklahoma

worth more than twenty years

in New York. The best he’s eaten

since the sirloin with a warm red center

bought with a dead man’s check.

For dessert, diced strawberries,

pumpkin pie and memories

of wrapping Christmas lights high

around a neighbor’s neck.

Before his execution, he says

I did not get my SpaghettiOs.

I got spaghetti.

I want the press to know this—

after he’s strapped down,

his tongue grows thick, still

coated with the overripe taste

of this thing some call justice.


Andrew Lee Butler is a PhD student at the University of Tennessee in English and Creative Writing, where he’s also a poetry co-editor at Grist.  


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