End of the Road

By TG

3:30 in the morning
not a soul in sight.
The prisons like a ghost town
when the guards turn off the lights.

Teardrops only tattoos
there’s no crying for my sins.
I’m heading back to somewhere
I said I’ll never go again.
end of the road
end of the road

End of the road
like the end of life
you feel yourself
grow cold the
more days go by
and you say goodbye
to all you know
and so you part
end of the road.

You don’t feel like a man
when they tell you to strip down.
Open your mouth
bend over
squat, cough
and turn around.
Jumpsuit and a bedroll
and a number for your name
white, black, rich, or poor
you are treated all the same.
end of the road
end of the road

End of the road
like the end of life
you feel yourself
grow cold the
more days go by
and you say goodbye
to all you know
and so you part
end of the road.

You never really adjusted
and it shows deep in your eyes.
Doing things you’re ashamed of
just to make sure you survive.
And just like winter storms
the rain can turn to snow
and the lightning flashes
could save lives
for those at the end of the road.

15 Comments

  1. Pat R on December 17, 2018 at 12:02 PM

    TG,
    I found your poem very powerful, and the emotions of what it’s like to be incarcerated really come out. I like how you repeated “end of the road” at various points throughout the poem, and how you ended with “for those at the end of the road.” Keep writing!
    -PR

  2. Anonymous on January 2, 2019 at 2:06 PM

    I can feel your emotions in your words and I thank you for your honesty. Thank you for sharing the thoughts and emotions that so many incarcerated individuals have and share. This line specifically stuck out to me, “Doing things you’re ashamed of just to make sure you survive.” We’ve all made mistakes in our lives and should never be defined by the worst thing we’ve ever done. Keep your head up. You are worthy.

  3. Barbara on January 3, 2019 at 8:19 PM

    TG —
    This poem is really powerful. I can also see it turned into a song. Keep writing. Keep singing.

  4. Amanda Rutledge on February 5, 2019 at 11:21 AM

    This is really powerful and the repetition of “end of the road” is extremely effective!

  5. Adelaide on February 5, 2019 at 11:40 AM

    Wow! Reading this was a real experience- you used such specific and beautiful words that I could feel what you were feeling. I loved how you incorporated repetition, which highlighted the bleakness that you’re feeling. The rhythm of this poem was just beautiful! Keep writing and stay strong!

  6. Jonah Thompson on February 5, 2019 at 12:20 PM

    The way you end a stanza and start the next one with the same phrase is great. It gives the reader a sense that the two instances of the same words have an entirely different tone.

  7. Susan B on February 12, 2019 at 5:08 PM

    Beautiful poem. You really express yourself in a moving way.

  8. Liz on February 15, 2019 at 11:50 AM

    I feel like I can see through your eyes with your writing. Thank you.

  9. Tiffany on February 15, 2019 at 11:53 AM

    This is powerful, and I really got a sense of what your environment is like because you created such vivid energy. The refrain of “end of the road” also made an impact. I’m wondering if you could write a follow up to “end of the road”? Is that the same way you feel now? If not, I would love to have an answer to this first poem.

  10. molly on February 15, 2019 at 11:59 AM

    TG, you are not just a number to God/a higher being. You are everything to God. Your dignity may be diminished at times but it can never be lost for you are precious to the world and you are needed. Your poem explores the darkness we all feel at times. Your words and thoughts connect all of us.There is not a person on earth who could not relate to your message. Please keep writing!!!

  11. Carly on February 15, 2019 at 12:05 PM

    TG, the only constructive criticism/feedback I feel comfortable giving you is: KEEP WRITING! Your poem reads like lyrics to a song. You have rhythm, repetition, and fantastic imagery. I think your poem expresses what people on the outside have absolutely NO CLUE about. What is interesting about your poem is that I actually do not know how I feel at the end of the poem… I am struggling to decide if I think the “end of the road” is positive or negative for you, at this moment in time. I think that is what makes your poem so powerful, the fact that I am left with more questions than answers. I think I feel “hope” at the end of the road, because when you describe the winter storm, I envisioned annoying and inconvenient rain slowly transforming into gentle snowflakes.

  12. Nicki on February 15, 2019 at 12:07 PM

    Your poem gives such a real and heart-wrenching image of life in prison. The reader feels the pain of losing one’s identity and sense of self in prison through your powerful imagery, repetition, and figurative language. I particularly like the lines, “tear drops only tattoos there’s no crying for my sins” and “and just like winter storms, the rain can turn to snow and the lightning flashes could save lives for those at the end of the road.” I would like to hear more about the meaning behind the weather imagery. I also wonder why you chose to start with comparing prison to a ghost town when the lights go out as opposed to starting with the stanza that talks about entering prison and how that process strips you of your identity and feeling like a man. I loved your poem and got something new out of it with every reread. Thank you for sharing and I hope you keep writing!

  13. Sue Anna Clark on February 15, 2019 at 12:15 PM

    TC,
    My favorite poems create pictures, like yours. I see the ghost town of the prison; I feel the humiliation-loss of humanity at in-take. I like your repeating verse, too. I feel the cold, the aloneness of the end of the road/end of life.
    What do the lightning flashes represent that they could save lives of those at the end of the road? Insights? a light on the way forward? That final stanza goes personal– I like that a lot.

  14. James C on April 29, 2020 at 3:34 PM

    This poem is incredible! The experiences of pain, longing, and incarceration are detailed and visual, and I was deeply moved reading your poem. The repetition at the end of each stanza mirrors the monotony of incarceration. You write with dignity and grace about your loss of identity and the pain you have endured. TG, I urge you to keep writing beautiful poetry!

  15. JM on November 13, 2020 at 3:09 PM

    Dear TG,

    Thank you for sharing this poem. It was so powerful and each of the prison scenes you described were so vivid. I really liked the way it rhymed and read like a song, and your repetition of “end of the road.” This was such a beautiful poem because you did a great job of writing vivid scenes with simple language and making it all rhyme. I really felt as if I were awake on a cot at 3:30 thinking about the experiences you describe. The end of the poem was also mysterious and thought provoking– I wondered what the lightning flashes meant, but it was such a good image and made the poem stick in my mind long after reading it. I hope you continue to write and share because this was a truly great poem that will remain with me after reading it.

    Best,
    JM

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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.