Me and Jim Crow

By PJ

Twenty years in ADX.*
I’m asked, a lot, one question:
How long have you been here?
First, let me tell you something I know:
(Feared, is the unknown;) it is the confined person’s ghost.

When I was told: “the short trip,”
I couldn’t wait to get with “it”;
to act a fool.
For two decades, really, I haven’t moved.
It seems: I’m going in circles, but before
you jump to conclusions, understand: basically,
we all (are going in circles). Some big,
some smaller than others; we live by: clocks.
The earth revolves around the sun; I crossed a lot.

Administrative Maximum is a microcosm of society.
All the problems, symptoms, epidemics in our cities
are gathered here (again), interacting.
What wasn’t solved there,
resurfaces here.
It’s an environment where: you’re constantly
fighting insanity.
That, accompanied with: maintaining your safety
and trying to stay alert.

As an African American today,
in the Criminal Justice System, ADX,
has been a way to search: myself.
As many things here, the inside becomes: meshed,
in adaptation with outside forces.
(Weakening, or strengthening, building, or destroying.)
Sometimes what we consider: a curse,
can be: a road (a beginning), a door; our cure.

In the Era of Mass Incarceration,
as an African American,
I feel: very much, like a commodity;
as I come to the realization: (monetarily),
others have “set-up,” (taken liberty),
to map-out what they feel is: my destiny.
(A rightful place) as they gain. From a
long ago, enacted (scheme) to hamper the slave.
As with The United States Penitentiary, ADX, now I know:
(That scheme) has become known
as: Justice, Criminalization, Incarceration, The New Jim Crow.

*ADX refers to a maximum security federal prison. Everyone incarcerated there is held in solitary confinement.

Comments

  1. PJ,
    This poem is very well written and I really enjoyed reading your insights. The prison system is truly a problem that America must comes to terms with. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. -Pat

  2. PJ,

    Your poem makes one think about the era that we live in and realize how much has changed and what needs to be changed still. The way you describe the United States justice system is honest. “The New Jim Crow” that you mention is an ongoing issue that many people might agree with and is an unfortunate one that needs attention. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I hope you keep on writing and have hope for the future.

  3. Hi PJ! I just discovered this blog and your poem. Wow it is so powerful. Thank you for sharing it. I’m currently in school and would love to share your work with my class, would this be alright?

  4. Jordyn Salmon says

    PJ,

    Wow, this poem is so very powerful. The points you bring up about solitary confinement and mass incarceration are important to discuss, especially in our times. The fact that these thoughts come from a personal place makes your poem that much more compelling. I hope that you are able to continue writing about these issues that tend to make people uncomfortable. When people are uncomfortable, that’s when change happens.

  5. PJ,
    Thank you for allowing others into your experience and for sharing your work.
    Learning from the outside about mass incarceration and the injustices within the justice system is so much different than hearing a individual testimony–it feels all the more real, urgent and, eyeopening….so thank you.
    You inspire me to even further fight against the injustices of America. Your last stanza especially spoke to me.
    Thank you again for your poem.

  6. Arina Borodkina says

    I was stunned by this after reading it. I want to start off by saying that you have such a way with words and I felt so moved by this. I learned of the New Jim Crow a couple years ago and as a white individual, I feel so ashamed and disappointed in our country and the way we have systematically continued to harm Black individuals. I am studying Sociology and about the criminal justice system at university and I will be passing this poem onto one of my professors. I will be thinking of you PJ, stay strong. Thank you for sharing and educating. -Arina

  7. PJ–
    Thank you so much for this poem. It’s hard to describe how much your poem has impacted me. For one, you’ve inspired me to go read the book The New Jim Crow. I need to keep educating myself and learning about the American Criminal Justice System, so it was really meaningful for me to get to read your poem. Please keep writing, and I hope to get the chance to read another one of your poems.
    Hannah

  8. This was extremely powerful and well written. The flow of the words was melodic and I could hear the rhythm in my head. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Coughlin / Johnson Family says

    Very inspiring and truthful, intense. Great use of vocabulary,. I feel forever changed, Thank you for your strong perspective. (13yo Nick)

  10. Alison Losey says

    This is an excellent piece of poetry. Reading it gave me a feeling of vast emptiness – like the sky on a cloudless night at least 200 miles from another person or thing. Perfect and true clarity – the way a fleeting moment of enlightenment has been described as feeling.

    Please continue to share your wisdom with the world.

  11. Elizabeth Diaz says

    First off, thank you for sharing a little about what you have experienced and learned there past twenty years while incarcerated. It was creative to say that we are all basically going in circles. It made me think about how true that is. We are all stuck in a routine that we measure with time. I liked that said, what we might see as a curse could be a cure or a new beginning. One of my favorite lines is when you said that others have taken liberty to map out your destiny. As a minority, I can understand that. Because of the lack of equity, what we have, and what is available to us is not enough to let us succeed. Many obstacles cause us to live the same life as our parents and other generations before us. Great short story!

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