full lyrics:

a letter in the mail said I'd been summoned

as a pillar of our proud society

I reported on the date

to that building off the interstate

and slid in line as they directed me

it was early summer morning

before sunrise

there was still dew on the grass

and window sill

when I reached the front

I signed and took a rifle

wonderin' whose time and come

to pay their bill

there were six of us in all standin' together

no one spoke but nodded

greetings somberly

the youngest prolly few months

outta high school

and the oldest, she looked at least seventy

we filed out to the courtyard at the signal

where the warden gave a cordial talkin' thru

he said only one was loaded with live ammo

so you won't know if shot that got him come from you

then they brought the condemned out

to face comeuppance

and I knew him from the papers

and his trial

here before us stood

one dirty goddamn devil

whose only effort at remorse

had been a smile

the sun was creepin' up above the ridgeline

when they ordered us to aim our rifles true

I looked in his eyes and he glared back

in mine as well

and it felt good to be the one

give him his due

the warden hollered "fire!" and we fired

but the guilty man before us failed to fall

and I heard a whimper down the line a little from the one refused their civic duty call

"Does this mean I"m free to go?"

the condemned questioned

"Not a chance," came back

the warden's cold reply

"Just because one citizen's too soft

to shoulder the burden

doesn't mean that you don't

still deserve to die"

new rifles with new rounds

were quickly issued

but from six our number'd

dwindled down to five

didn't say how many got real bullets

this time

but Lady Justice wasn't one to be deprived

once more direction came to aim and ready

as the condemned stared down

the barrels of his debt

suddenly his posture wilted like a sunflower

and in his eyes formed tears

of too-damn-late regret

now I'm not a man

who let's emotion govern me

and I've respect for the law and order way

but when the warden hollered "fire!"

with such vengeance in his tone

my heart wouldn't let my fingertip obey

for contempt they made me serve

a three day sentence

even charity sometimes can earn the chain

all the others had obeyed

the warden's order

so my sympathetic gesture'd been in vain

solitary gave me plenty time to reckon

once set free set off a man without country

maybe eye for eye's a policy long practiced

but how civilized can any killin' be