Prison Poetry by Conway: “Possessed”, “Rusted Actor”

Last month I introduced the readers of this site to “Conway,” a prisoner at a supermax facility in central California who’s serving 25-to-life under the state’s three-strikes law for receiving stolen goods. Conway (a pseudonym) is a skilled writer and artist, and an avid reader, despite the difficulty of finding either writing paper or decent books in jail. One would hope that the authorities would be more supportive of an inmate trying to better himself, but unfortunately he often finds them putting up obstacles to his education instead.  Some excerpts from his letters:

Oct. 15, 2006

I just received your letter and the poems. They were all very good. I so much appreciate you sharing them with me. They have nothing at all for reading around here 🙁   so pretty much gotta hear everyone’s war dogs when we go outside to exercise in the cages (kennels).

They don’t allow us to have contact with each other (physical) so we get chained up and escorted to these 10′ x 18′ cages all lined up. So, whomever you’re next to is who you talk with – wow! there are some very strange cats around here….


   Barbed wire invades
the edge of this nakedness,
inside my concrete jungle.
   Towers loom the perimeter
flexed giant fists waiting,
to crush the lost wretch.
   Chain link webs surround
hypnotic formless foggy
death traps.
   Strange fears chill
of peering silhouettes
outside-in from hollow giants.
   As vents whistle and moan
terrorizing the hardest of soul
till possession is complete…

Nov. 8, 2006

I started a book (reading) “Anna Karenina” – never read any tolstoy before – he seems to be extremely longwinded; I traded a drawing for the book so got to read it all now 🙂

Haven’t wrote in my story for two weeks now, ran out of lined paper so will have to wait for my sister in Washington to send me some….

Anna Karenina – I’m reading it in the mornings 5:30 a.m. till 7:30 a.m. when the lights come on and everyone is still quiet – they slide our trays through the slot at 7:30 or so and it’s nonstop interference till the lights go out around 10 p.m. They extended my time in the hole another 6 months – some new regulation that if you’ve been sent to the hole 3 times within your sentence then you are assessed an indeterminate SHU (segregated housing unit) so I must remain disciplinary free for six months before I get back out to the main line – whatever! only thing I miss is radio and contact visits….

Rusted Actor

Hulk of skeleton rusting
   vines-n-bramble entertwined
through around over and under
   your aged girth.

Such a monster were you
   with the old man riding
completing your power trip
   the earth was no match.

Now the old man
   has passed, and ages gone
since you’ve been gassed
   with care and love.

Contempt though you had
   for all in your way, shredding
a path with steel spikes
   low gutteral growls, belching
your black breath with fury
   whenever challenged.

O’ the wizards of alchemy
   created such a monster
when they snatched your specter
   from out ore smelting
that demonic frame of bolted gears.

But you’re not so tough
   now that my father shows you
no more concern, even flowers
   mock with indignance unmoved.

I could wake you!
   Maybe someday I will conspire
with your mechanical madness
   just to show those wild interlopers
wrapping your rusted torso.

But for now you shall sleep
   while those bushes and vines creep
through your iron bones
   building your disdain.

I know my father
   would feel your pain but he’s gone
he’s passed you onto me
   so you see only I remember
your destructive glory.

I put you in this story
   old beast I care for you
in the least
   but dare not wake you up
for now.

You remind me too much
   of the love I lost
when my father was tossed
   off your back, you
then crushed him with your track.

Wretched machine!
   you were that dread actor
horrid old tractor, so
   may you rust in Hell…

11 comments on “Prison Poetry by Conway: “Possessed”, “Rusted Actor”

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