My prison pen pal “Conway” has been a prolific writer this winter, undaunted by his unfair reclassification to a more restricted security status that further limits his access to family visits and reading materials. In January, I sent him some writing prompts, including one that suggested beginning every sentence of a paragraph with “in the kitchen”. Conway changed it to something more relevant to his experience, as you can see in the two prose-poems below.
Holding, this quiet inside my soul
Scolding the noise silently
That threatens to regain control.
Even as this jealous rain falls to & fro–
all around, calls out from the ground.
I know where things have led, so…
Who really is humble, in deed?
This simple thought provokes an abyss,
A deep ocean of ungraspable water.
How do I see into the clear depth
without glimpsing a reflection. Then
distorted by my trembling attempts, to
escape this prison of error…
In Prison (1)
In prison, there’s no reason why these toilets should be so loud. In prison, noise is not allowed by prisoners. In prison I turned a pair of eyeglasses into a sewing needle, it took a long time. But, it passed it also. In prison they gave a guy three years for a sewing needle. It was a plea bargain they threatened to strike him out. In prison we don’t talk about how much it costs to make your clothes fit and shit like that. Would you? In prison I grew. My children did too. But without a clue of who I am. In prison I got a letter from you, it made me feel better, but only for a while. So, I read it again and again. Whenever I feel the need to smile. In prison they were running yard, it was cold and hard because of the rain. But we try our best to not complain. In prison they say “True that,” ’cause no one’s getting fat in prison. Because in prison they shove the food through the tray slot in the door, they don’t allow us in the chow hall anymore. But, that’s cool. I don’t like eating with some of those fools anyway. In prison I wondered out loud. I wondered what the taxpayers would think about paying thirty five thousand dollars a year for a sewing needle? In prison we think about stupid shit like that, but the district attorney doesn’t yet! In prison? He’s the one who should have to sew his clothes with this sewing needle, in prison…
In Prison (2)
In prison at least five or ten minutes we passed a verbal down the tier. The dinner was chicken goo. In prison they were crop dusting and the steel door was rusting in the fumes of time. In prison we were doing burpees all day and breaking the rules with loud cadences. But in prison the rules are made to be broken, like spokes on an old bike, rattling down the road. In prison the commode is so fuckin loud it howls hungrily for shit. In prison the walls shine, from being touched and rubbed on too much. In prison I saw a rabbit die in the electric fence and crows chasing hawks, if that makes sense, it does kind of, ’cause the hawks eat crow when they can catch them slippin’; so maybe it’s not so strange to me. In prison these words are ridiculous but I’m still writing in prison…