Family Picture


After Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration by Tony Lewis Jr.

There’s something missing with this picture
As I wake onto a random day
In a random hood
In a random city
In America
I listen
Listen to the voice of my mother
Shouting down the bickering of my
Little sister and little brother
But there’s something missing
So I look
Look to find my auntie on the couch
With my baby cousin in hand
Look out the window to find the neighborhood junkie
But he is not the MAN
I’m looking for
See that man has been gone for years
Gone from this family’s struggles
Gone from being this family’s muscle
Gone from this family’s daily hustle
Ironic that I used that last word
‘cause HUSTLE is what got him sentenced
To no return, L.I.F.E.
So my father is what’s missing with this picture
My uncle too
And to every other black child
In a random hood
In a random city
In America
I’m just like you too.


  1. praddyumn kulshreshtha on October 21, 2018 at 1:30 AM

    It is a marvelous poem. I like it. Keep writing. Cultivate your talent.

  2. Caroline on February 5, 2019 at 11:30 AM

    I love this poem, you are an amazing writer! It’s well-written and the use of repetition is really good!

  3. Kayelynn on April 19, 2020 at 3:44 PM


    Marvelous poem! You’re capturing the big issue of missing fathers that affects lives everywhere, especially boys. You create vivid images for your readers and your blunt, honest language helps them understand where you’re coming from. You’re an awesome writer!

  4. JM on November 13, 2020 at 3:24 PM

    Dear LC,

    Thank you for sharing this poem. I really liked that you chose to present it as a “Family Picture,” capturing a scenario that is shared by many in America as one image. I like how you begin with the repetition of “random,” emphasizing that this could be anyone, anywhere, but then the description gets so specific with the mom and kids bickering and the young man looking out the window to where his father or uncle would have stood. This poem really made me feel the absence and the heartache that this missing presence leaves– it has the exact effect of looking at an empty spot in a picture where a beloved family member should’ve been. This was such a powerful and specific poem that you were able to link with a national phenomenon– thank you for bringing light to this issue in such an artful and beautiful way. I hope you continue to write and share your words.


  5. Maxine Cassell on August 24, 2021 at 6:26 PM


    This is a great poem to read and I appreciate you sharing it. I really like your line, “cause HUSTLE is what got him sentenced, to no return L.I.F.E.”. The words that you chose to emphasize puts a lot of meaning behind them and emotion. I also like that you repeated the word gone. It made it clear that there was no going back, that what happened was final. You wrote an incredible poem, keep writing.

  6. Julia on September 22, 2021 at 3:04 PM

    Wow, this poem was well-worded and expressed so much emotion in just a few stanzas. You are very strong to share something like this about yourself, and you tell your story so beautifully. I like the way you set this poem up, keeping us wondering who you are talking about in the beginning/middle, then making it known to us at the end that sadly both you are your cousin are missing their fathers. Again, this was amazing work and I hope to read more!

  7. Maddy T on November 9, 2021 at 9:33 PM

    This poem is great! I especially love the three lines that start with “Gone” and end with a rhyme— it’s cool how you rhymed struggle, muscle, and hustle together and made it work even though none of them have the same ending. I live the way you pull the reader in with personal experiences.

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