Amongst the Broken Men

By CB

I’m living in a world where you’re called
By numbers and not your name
On lockdown, behind a wall in rusty chains
My hands and feet are in shackles, so I can’t move
This the first time in my life
That I don’t know what to do, and
Not even my family knows what I’m going through
Being forced to eat small portions of shitty meals
And if we complain, they say, “We’re lucky
That we are being fed.” They got grown men
Sleeping on bunkbeds. Many men have
Committed suicide for living under these conditions
They then told the C.O.s that they were going
To do it but they ain’t listen
I was taught to stand for something
Or continue to fall for anything
These men must been brought up differently
Cause they don’t stand for nothing, but count time
They bring opprobrium to my race, because
They quick to fight each other but won’t
Even fight for their own freedom
And none of them have thoughts of escape
It’s like they are scared of these gates
They got me surrounded by cowards
Who are content with being oppressed
By racist a** C.O.s, that applied pressure
The institution is the new plantation
It’s slavery at its best, yet we fail to rebel
Because they install slave mind frames in us
That cause us to get side tracked
And look forward to mail, but I refuse
To be like the rest, so I stand alone
Because I’m amongst broken men and
Once something been broken once
It could be broken again
Amongst the broken men

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27 Comments

  1. Sylvia on August 24, 2020 at 3:20 PM

    I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through but you are a very talented writer and this poem is so important. You deserve to be treated like a human being, not called a number. Your voice is powerful and I hope more people can see this. -Sylvia

  2. Vienna on August 26, 2020 at 5:46 PM

    Wow. The imagery you express in your writing is immaculate. You’re right that family and friends don’t understand what it is like, but people like you show us what really goes on. You are giving a voice to those who can’t speak. I want you to know, you are not alone. I hear you and I see you. I stand with you. The ending of your poem, the lines “once something been broken once it could be broken again..” I would love to know more about what this means to you. It’s a strong ending that gets me thinking. Keep writing. Your words are a gift to read.

  3. Emily F on August 30, 2020 at 12:41 PM

    I really enjoyed your poem, I think you made some good points. I think you painted a good picture of a world many are unaware of; you brought light to a dark world that seems hard to understand. I really liked the line “I was taught to stand for something or continue to fall for anything”, I think more people should be taught this because this is the only mindset that will change anything, in our broken world.

  4. Tara C. on September 1, 2020 at 7:15 PM

    The way every line flows adds so much depth to your poem. The rhythm, flow, and slight rhyme is so great, and it portrays your message in a very powerful way. Especially in today’s social and political climate, we need to be aware of how so many people (from several different backgrounds) in this world feel. Your poem creates a great perspective on the feelings of those who are discriminated against, treated unfairly, isolated, and mistreated overall.

  5. molly on September 2, 2020 at 2:43 PM

    terrific poem about a terrible situation. I really like the rhythm and the line about being “scared of these gates.” I wonder if you might want to change the very end to have “once something been broken once / it’s easier to break again” –just a thought. Thank you for this wonderful poem. Also, nice use of the word opprobrium!

  6. Zo on September 8, 2020 at 8:59 AM

    CB,
    Your experience of incarceration is eye opening. I really enjoyed your use of metaphors (“the institution is the new plantation”)… especially during the BLM movement I’ve been trying to gain a larger understanding of Black experiences, and this opened a new door for me. Not only did you intrigue the reader to learn more about a lesser known subject, you prompted me to expand my vocabulary. For example, I had never heard the word opprobrium before, but I now know it means harsh criticism or censure.
    Thank you so much for sharing this, and I encourage you to continue to be unscathed among broken men.

  7. Chloe on September 8, 2020 at 9:04 AM

    Hi CB, thank you for sharing this with us. I can tell how passionate you are, and I appreciate you being so raw about your reality. I like how you talk about standing strong and staying true to your roots/how you were raised in the face of such conformity. -Chloe

  8. armani739 on September 8, 2020 at 5:24 PM

    What’s up CB,

    You expressed yourself extremely well in this poem about your experience behind them walls. I personally have never been there so I can not fathom that experience. However, many men in my family have shared that journey with you. I always wonder how many men that have had that experience are like you?
    You are inspiring.
    The final four lines are grabbing and the rhyming also helps it stick.
    Great Job

    -K.P.

  9. Maddie on September 9, 2020 at 7:24 PM

    Wow! I will never truly experience what you are going through, but you are putting a positive spin on a tough situation. Always stand up for yourself and who you are. God-speed!

  10. nicolegleason on September 16, 2020 at 11:02 PM

    This poem is layered with a lot of meaning that really gets through the heart of the problems those who are incarcerated face. I particularly enjoyed your usage of rhyme and rhythm to depict how fellow inmates are oppressed via distractions such as mail.
    Thank you for your work! Hope to see more of it.
    -Nicole

  11. Joshua Redd on September 26, 2020 at 11:50 AM

    This piece demonstrates the absolute denunciation of humanity that incarcerated folks (and survivors of the prison complex) experience. Thank you for being vulnerable and writing this piece.

  12. Abigail Cross on September 29, 2020 at 8:24 PM

    -CB,
    I like how you are using your writing to express your feelings and emotions. I think writing is a really good way to do this, and so I hope you continue to write. Stay strong.

  13. Krystal Ramos on September 30, 2020 at 7:57 PM

    This poem has such a powerful statement. I applaud you for standing up for what you believe. You are not a number, you are a person. The system is completely broken and I stand by your side and willing to fight for a better environment for you. It honestly hurts me knowing there are CO’s that act in such cruel ways. I was honestly oblivious to these things until now. Thank you, for sharing your message, I will definitely be looking up ways that I can help. Your words have made a difference.

  14. Kenya Lewis on October 6, 2020 at 8:24 PM

    Stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything for sure! Amongst many other poems and writings, yours stood out to me. In a weird way I can feel what you’re going through because I’ve been where you are, just in a different setting. To have a corrupted world falling down all around you and weak minded people to go along with it, does not help. Continue to fight for what you believe in and know to be right. Continue to live in your truth and be strong. Thank you for sharing and inspiring others.

  15. kassidilenae on October 13, 2020 at 9:53 AM

    CB,

    Wow. Your poem is well written, and your message is piercing. Thank you for sharing this with us. Your strength is admirable, despite the hardships you face. You are strong, and this is what guarantees your success in life. You are resilient; never let your hardships brake you like the other “broken men.” Keep using your words for good. We hear you.

    KC

  16. Kennedi on October 15, 2020 at 11:34 PM

    Wow. This was an amazing poem! It was so powerful and upsetting at the same time. You allowed us to look through your eyes in this poem. We saw what you saw and felt what you feel. This poem in general was just so good. Never stop writing and continue to keep it up!!

  17. N. B. on October 16, 2020 at 3:13 PM

    This is an extremely powerful poem, especially to someone who has never experienced incarceration. It communicates what I’m sure is the reality for many sent to prison, especially people of color. It captures the dehumanization that many incarcerated must go through, and also highlights the fact that this is unknown by many others outside of the prison walls, including one’s own family. I thought this line was especially potent: “The institution is the new plantation” because you backed it up with relevant metaphors and examples like “racist a** CO’s” and “hands and feet in shackles.” Thank you so much for sharing this moving depiction of the reality of “the new plantation”: American prisons.

  18. Char on October 18, 2020 at 4:37 PM

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts. It was heart breaking to read. I loved your lines “They quick to fight each other but won’t even fight for their own freedom”. You seem to see things differently than others, and you seem to know that too. Keep that viewpoint. Please don’t fold. Please keep writing.

  19. Nina on October 28, 2020 at 2:48 PM

    This poem really does a good job of describing the circumstances you have lived through. I like the phrase “broken men” because it pairs two words we usually do not use together in a sentence. When we hear the word broken, I think of a physical object, not a person. I think this comes to mind because of my belief in the human spirit. This is something I noticed you touch on in this poem.. You show what it takes to be a strong human being.. Not giving up and not accepting something that is “broken.” It seems like you are frustrated and your poem displays a desire for change. With that being said, a line from a musical I watched a few years ago comes to mind and is something to be thought about. It is “If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?” I really enjoyed reading! –Nina

  20. kiana on October 28, 2020 at 3:15 PM

    CB,

    Your writing is truly phenomenal. “I was taught to stand for something/ or continue to fall for anything”, was the part of the poem that really expressed your strength and resilience, and the analogy you made between plantations and prisons highlighted the truth behind the physical and psychological torture that you unfairly have to endure. I can hear the frustration and anger with the lack of advocacy for these horrible conditions, and through writing you have truly brought to light what people need to know. Please keep writing.

  21. Logan on November 5, 2020 at 2:46 PM

    That was powerful man, and I hear you. It’s unfortunate hearing about the state of a lot of penitentiaries and how they treat people inside. Most of them are awful places for the incarcerated, where they’re treated like less than human. I don’t agree with that treatment, and I like your poem for that exact reason. I feel like it’s important to let it be known just how bad it is to really be in the thick of it, shout it from the rooftops my friend. Campaign for it even when your day comes. Make the change you want to see, I believe in you, CB.

  22. Gretch on November 11, 2020 at 3:04 PM

    CB,

    I could feel the rage behind your words at the rest of the men and the rest of the world. I am so so sorry. Your strength is so clear and tangible in this work.

    I also live by the mindset that I must stand for something, or else I will fall for anything. Even though I cannot imagine the attrocities you have been through, please know that I feel your passion and am struck by your work. Please continue your fight for freedom.

  23. Bridget on November 11, 2020 at 3:08 PM

    Thank you for writing about your situation. I can’t imagine the experiences that you are facing, but I am grateful that you are speaking up about injustice and fighting for freedom.

  24. Adrian Kocinski on November 11, 2020 at 3:26 PM

    This poem is so powerful I’m not sure where to even start. I guess I would like to thank you; your voice and your story are profound. You are incredibly strong to keep standing where others have fallen.

  25. beth on November 21, 2020 at 2:11 PM

    CB,
    Thank you for sharing this piece. It is a very raw and honest look at how broken the prison system is. Incarceration is supposed to rehabilitate people so that they can be released back into society, but instead you illustrate how it only breaks peoples spirits and reduces you to less than human, much like slavery. But you stay stong, refusing to give up even though your peers have.

  26. AKB on December 4, 2020 at 1:15 PM

    This poem does a good job of describing life behind bars and although I’ve never been this makes me have sympathy for you. Stay strong, positive and different from the rest. Keep fighting!

  27. Rebecca on December 24, 2020 at 3:14 PM

    Dear CB,

    Your poem was heartbreaking to read, but I’m so glad you wrote it and shared it. You have a way with words and a talent for picking the right word. I admire the depth of your vocabulary as well as the principles and determination that you show in lines like this one:

    “Cause they don’t stand for nothing, but count time
    They bring opprobrium to my race, because
    They quick to fight each other but won’t
    Even fight for their own freedom”

    I hope you keep writing poems. If you continue, I think you will have a bright future. I’m keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

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The poets featured here are currently incarcerated, and many of them are in federal prisons far from home. Your feedback is a valuable source of motivation and connection to the outside community. Post your comments, feedback, and encouragement in the space below the poem. Messages will be passed on directly to the author. Comments may not appear immediately on the site, as our team processes them to mail to the poets.