prison poems

Isn’t it tragic?
That no matter how much we yearn for the taste of freedom we still never truly escape the prison that is our mind
—  12 am thoughts (I should be asleep why am I still up)
The Mourning Comes

By JM Hillman

Waiting for the floors to mop themselves
In you go to face the wall
Surely that cold mirror is lying
Melt my plastic and snap my razors
That’s all part of this circus
Revolve and harden
Knuckles, teeth and ash
And man you must miss earth
The yard is for walking
And that is what I’ll do
Back on like a light
Snap on until it jumps off
Then all hell
Library of sitting ducks
Take a look at this dying community
And recognize it is ill
It will take all stars to save it
And a lot of graves to pave it

Last Moments

In a few minutes
it would be over;
yet I was shaking,
rioting against these
straps of coming
freedom; and I
thought I would
succumb to fear and
utter something, anything
or have the last prayer;
but I was more
than this injustice
laid upon me.
So I writhed as the
cold man moved
mechanically to give
me my final drink; this
poison and silence -
my prelude to the
end of time.

[This poem is inspired by the last moments of prisoners, before execution by lethal injection. What impressed upon me was the choice of silence by many and worse, some proclaiming their innocence. Do google “last words of prisoners” if you are interested in these accounts.]

Penitentiary Dreamers

Ceased and desisted 

hearts trapped in self-made prisons

no one knew your struggles 

and no one knows the pain 

quite like you do


maybe you’ll break free from it all 

but then again at least your heart 

has a common place in here

sure, the walls are stained with bad memories 

and you’ll never know what those distant mountains 

are like outside of your prison bars 

but I guess at least you can’t fall again

this may not be your destiny 

but neither were all those broken hearts 

you suffered through

maybe the only freedom you’ll ever know

is the freedom you find when you close your eyes

maybe you were born to just be a dreamer


in this body–
DNA coded me as female,
but my mind screams male.
in this home–
forced to hide who I am,
being different is a sin.
in these thoughts–
fighting my genetics
with streams of self-hatred.
with invalidation–
countless bras and panties,
wishing they were binders and boxers.
in my head–
who I am and who I’m not,
a never-ending battle.
in my clothes–
feminine, body hugging,
I just want to express myself.

A Prison gets to be a friend—
Between its Ponderous face
And Ours—a Kinsmanship express—
And in its narrow Eyes—

We come to look with gratitude
For the appointed Beam
It deal us—stated as our food—
And hungered for—the same—

We learn to know the Planks—
That answer to Our feet—
So miserable a sound—at first—
Nor ever now—so sweet—

As plashing in the Pools—
When Memory was a Boy—
But a Demurer Circuit—
A Geometric Joy—

The Posture of the Key
That interrupt the Day
To Our Endeavor—Not so real
The Check of Liberty—

As this Phantasm Steel—
Whose features—Day and Night—
Are present to us—as Our Own—
And as escapeless—quite—

The narrow Round—the Stint—
The slow exchange of Hope—
For something passiver—Content
Too steep for lookinp up—

The Liberty we knew
Avoided—like a Dream—
Too wide for any Night but Heaven—
If That—indeed—redeem—

—  Emily Dickinson, A Prison gets to be a friend

I have written about you so many times.
I have used so many words
Putting them one after the other
On blank sheets of paper
Neatly, hoping their clarity would
Persuade you to come back to me.
I have used so many words,
Yet all of them together could never
Amount to what these few last ones
Will say. I am writing to say goodbye.
Not to you, you already left a long time ago.
I am saying goodbye to the person
I believed you could have been.
I am saying goodbye to the armour I built
For you. Shielded by my lying hopes,
Tucked in there you faced no threat.
But with your detachment and negligence
My armour for you grew thinner and thinner
And when I once opened it to check on you
I found no trace of the noble knight I was expecting.
I now must let go of all of that iron.
Of the unnecessary weight I was carrying for
The both of us. These are my parting words
I hope they will reach you no matter how deaf
You’ve been willing yourself to be.

The feeling that it is not going to be me and you
In the end has hit me many times before
But never with such neatness, never with
So much elegance and clarity.
There is a strange pleasure in making
Wrinkled things smooth. In scrubbing a dirty plate
Until all the food stains are gone.
I am putting you away, folding you neatly
Like my favourite shirt. The one I always
Look at when I open my wardrobe
In the morning and have to talk myself out
Of wearing because I know it no longer
Looks good on my skin. I’ll grow out of it
Someday and the same will happen with you.
There will come a morning when
My first thought is not going to be you
And how my entire being trembled under your gaze.

I can count on my fingertips the number of days
We spent together, yet those moments meant
So much to me. Everything that we did not have
Time to experience, I had already lived it in my mind
Waiting for the moment when it would become true.
It never did, in the end, and that is probably
What pains me the most. Together, we could’ve been
So many things. Entire days spent in museums
Skipping over dozens of paintings and then
Spending ages in front of one in silence,
Only your arm wrapped around my waist.
Picnics in St James’ to chase the squirrels and
Feed the ducks. I would’ve been wearing
A red hat and you your dark green coat.
How funny we would’ve looked, sitting close
On a bench, with an open box of chips on my lap.
We never had time for days like that but
There were other moments when you made me
Feel so special that I thought I’d never have to face
Life by myself again. But soon enough I became
The old toy, whose dishevelled hair and ragged dress
You could not bring yourself to pity.
For a long time I wondered what I had to be like
In order for you to love me for real. Perhaps I could’ve
Learned to paint or how to play the piano.
Then she came along and she brought the answer
With her. I now look at her and know exactly what
Is missing in me. Why I never had a chance with you.

I have talked myself into a state of such misery
That not even you taking me back would make me
Whole again. You ripped me in pieces so small
I am not sure why people are not picking them up
Off the pavement. I seek comfort in anything
Even in the raging weather, because it means
That someone else out there is angry, too.
I am all shrivelled up, withering away
Yet I am still here and I’d rather lose my voce
Forever than crying out your name again.
Do not beg for Love. Do not insist.
Love is attentive, Love is careful.
It knows when to insist, when to dare.
And when it is best to let it go.
For far too long I tried to convince Love that
I knew better and now I’ll never extinguish
The price I have to pay for my temerity.

It will take me a long time to unknown you
Because the tenderness that I feel for you
Is infinite but I am so tired of trying
To convince you that I am special enough.
That I am worth your time and affection.
There is so much self-love and respect in
Walking away from what threatens to annihilate you.
I will always remember you, how everything
Went quiet in my head the first time you said my name.
But I am holding on to something you never meant
To give me and it is about time I give it back to you.
Keep it, throw it away. It does not matter.
I cannot keep carrying it, nestled in my chest
And let it poison what little good is still there.
I don’t know what I’ll be doing with my vacant
Heart when it will no longer be telling me tales
About you. What’s for sure is that it is going to be
Fully mine. Mine like it hadn’t been in months.

I don’t want to keep waiting for you.
I don’t want to keep hoping in vain.
I want my colours to be enough
And with them light up the way to a place
Where I am no longer your prisoner
But my own guardian angel.

—  M.B, Strangers since Yesterday.
“My alarm clock goes off at 6:00 sharp. By 6:05 I’m in the shower. And out by 6:15. By 6:30 I’m dressed and my hair is done. By 6:40 I’m trying to eat breakfast. By 6:55 I’m brushing my teeth. And by 7:00 I’m out the door and on my way to school. From 7:15-8:30 I’m finishing homework and studying for my classes in the library. From 8:35-3:05 I’m in the prison walls we call school. My brains scattered and confused filled with equations I have to remember. My day is filled with "you’ll need to know this for the test” “if you fail this you could fail my class” and “this project is worth a lot of points” it’s a continuous cycle of hearing kids say “I don’t care” “it doesn’t matter” and “I need to do this” “I need to pass” Walking down the hallways I see kids who look like zombies. I see kids hyped up on red bull or monster or whatever keeps them ‘going’ so they can make it through the school day. By 6th hour everyone has checked out and the worst part is there’s still 45 mins left of school. By 3:00 the teacher has stopped talking because no one is listening. They’re all too excited to get out of this place. But what slows them down is that by 3:15 they are home. And by 3:30 they’re leaving to get to their jobs that start at 3:45. And by 9:00 when they finally get off they just want to sleep. But they can’t because even though it’s now 11:50 they still have a essay to write for English and the draft is due tomorrow. By 2:00 we finally go to bed. And at 6:00 sharp, the alarm clock goes off. And we do it all over again.“
—  Day after day, it’s the same routine.