The Jonestown Odes

Ode To Larry Layton

Jim Jones stole your wife, Carolyn
Yet you remained loyal to him
Jim Jones had sex with your second wife, Karen
Who knows how many times
Yet you remained loyal to him

Jim Jones deprived you of good food, good drink,
Sleep, peace and quiet
With his voice blaring on the loud speakers of Jonestown
Night and day
Yet you remained loyal to him

Jim Jones deprived you of restrooms with privacy
Free from odor
Yet you remained loyal to him
He deprived you of toilet paper
Yet you remained loyal to him

Jim Jones deprived you of vacations and
Going to plays, movie theaters and rock concerts
Sports events, eating in restaurants
And the opportunity to attend high quality university classes
Yet you remained loyal to him

Jim Jones deprived you of choosing what job you wanted to do
Almost every waking moment of yours was given to him
In essence, you had no freedom
Yet you remained loyal to him
And were willing to kill for him

For Jim Jones you shot Vernon Gosney three times
And Monica Bagby twice
In the little airplane on the little airstrip
In Port Kaituma on that deadly day
Saturday November 18th, 1978

What made you remain loyal to Jim Jones no matter what?
Did his sermons make you feel high?
Did the camaraderie of the group give you
An incredibly powerful sense of family?
Did his sermons make you feel powerful?

Did you believe Jim Jones truly had the healing power
That he pretended to have during long church services
When he raised up rotten chicken gizzards and
Proclaimed that he had removed cancer?

When your beloved mother, Lisa, was dying
In horrible pain for weeks
Because Jim Jones had taken her cancer meds
And painkillers for himself
Didn’t you hate Jim Jones just a little bit?

If Jim Jones had any power to heal cancer
Why didn’t he save your mother who gave him
More than $200,000 and an heirloom statue
That was treasured by your family?

Were you ever angry that Jim Jones was a pathological liar
And you couldn’t believe one word he said?
Were you ever mad that you weren’t supposed to
Even contact your father
Because he was not a member of Peoples Temple?
As an American citizen, your dad had the right to
Freedom of religion according to the Constitution
But not according to Jim Jones

Did you think Jim Jones was kidding when he had everyone
Participate in suicide drills during “White Nights”?
Did you tell yourself that things would get better so
There would be no need for “Revolutionary Suicide” in the future?
What do you think now?
Do you think that too much optimism can be deadly?

When Jim Jones told you to go out and
Shoot down the airplane of “defectors”
(who were just church members trying to leave Jonestown)
Did you ever think maybe they had the
Right to choose where they wanted to live?

Why not let people have the freedom to
Live where they want to live?
If a New Yorker is cold and unhappy
And wants to move to Hawaii,
Why not allow it?
Why should all the decisions be up to one leader–
One dictator?

Being born and raised in America,
Did you ever think your fellow church members
Deserved human rights and
Had a right to live in a democracy
Instead of a dictatorship?

Did you think it was hypocritical for Jim Jones
To profess to be anti-drug and anti-booze and
Yet his words were sometimes so slurred
They were impossible to understand
Because he obviously was addicted himself?

Did you ever think it was unfair
That Jim Jones could have sex with anybody he wanted—
Married or not, male or female
When nobody else was allowed to have sex
Without approval of the Relationship Committee
Because sex would be a distraction from
Focusing on Socialism?

Did you believe Jim Jones’ lies that he was a healer
And that he was the reincarnation of Christ
Who could raise the dead
And yet Jim Jones wouldn’t save the lives of your mom or
The other seven people who died in Jonestown
Before the massacre took place?

Did you know that Jim Jones was saving up cyanide
Or that he was buying up guns, pistols, rifles, shotguns
And cross-bows with the intent of forcing people at gunpoint
To take cyanide or be shot to death?

Did you know that the leadership group in Jonestown
Even considered chopping off the heads of every church member—
Even children’s heads?

When Jim Jones told you to go kill people in the plane,
Did you think he would kill you if you refused?
Did part of you want to be assertive and say, “No”
But was the rest of you too afraid?

Did you think following his command
Was the right thing to do?
Did it ever flash in your mind to
Just leave with the “defectors” and
Not follow Jones’ orders?

I would like to know what you thought then
And what you think now
I would like to know how you felt then
And how you feel now
What was going through your mind
Before, during and after the massacre
And before, during, and after your trials?

What about the eighteen years you spent in prison?
What were your brain waves doing in those years?
Could you have kicked yourself for following the orders of someone
So sick, deranged and paranoid?

Are you sorry you threw so much of your life away
And caused so much pain and destruction to others
While you were under the influence of such a punitive man
Who was probably so physically ill
From so many years of substance abuse and stress
Lacking sleep, exercise and healthy eating habits
That he was about ready to die himself—
Probably within a month or two without his being shot?

Inquiring minds want to know

* * * * *

Ode To Deborah Layton

I admire your courage
I admire your smarts
I admire your compassion and
Efforts to save the people of Jonestown

You tried to open the eyes of Congress
And rescue everyone
But Congress had trouble believing that a
Man of the cloth with such a high reputation
Of being a fighter for civil rights
Could be doing such dastardly deeds!

How could the Winner of the Martin Luther King Award
Do these things?
It’s mind-boggling!

Could the Reverend Jim Jones really be torturing people?
Could he really be throwing dissidents into an underground box
Where they were roasting in darkness and
Suffering without enough food and water
For days?

Was Jonestown really an armed encampment
Withholding passports
With a guard tower looming above
Surrounded by numerous guards
Patrolling night and day
With pistols, rifles, shot-guns and crow-bows?

Was Jim Jones actually leading suicide drills?
Why? Had he really turned that paranoid?

You escaped Jonestown and rang the alarm
Most of Congress wasn’t ready to hear you
Congressman Ryan was brave and compassionate
But he had no idea of what he was walking into
It was the realm of madness
It made no sense
But you warned him
You warned everybody
In your Affidavit and your pleadings to Congress!

You and the people of Jonestown
Were deprived of good food, good drink
Peace and quiet and sleep for so long
It’s amazing you could even think enough
To plot your difficult escape

You tried to figure out a way to save your mom
But there really was no way to do it
You tried to figure out how to save your brother, Larry
But how could you do it?
He wound up as a shooter
Who had to spend eighteen years in prison

I have to thank you for writing your book,
Seductive Poison
It’s my favorite book of all time
It’s exciting
It’s emotional
It’s compassionate
It’s amazing
It opened my eyes!

I’m waiting for the movie version
Actually I would watch many movie versions
Of your insightful and powerful book
Perhaps every ten years a new adaptation of your book
Could be filmed
And wind up winning many Academy Awards!
I’m waiting with bated breath!

(Editor’s note: Linda Kime became fascinated with Jonestown when she heard Leslie Wagner-Wilson speak at the Mensa Annual Gathering in Phoenix in 2019. Linda lives in L.A. and writes screenplays, children’s books and speeches for Toastmasters. Her other contribution to this site is Terror in Jonestown. She can be reached at