Could have, would have, should have been on the streets, on my feet
Looking out my cell window like damn, I’m so far from a street
Staring at the wall like this isn’t where I should be
In the visitation room just looking at my beautiful niece
When I call home just talking and thinking like that’s where I should be
When they call my name at mail call, you should see the smile on my face, just the happiest as I could be
Under the jail if I die in prison I know that is where they’ll bury me
When pencil meets paper, my hand lets out the real me
When I read, I travel to every place but Southeast


  1. Ryan on March 6, 2018 at 1:49 PM

    I like how the hopeful images are positioned with the more hopeless ones — it makes both of them more stark and more vivid to the reader.

  2. LV on March 21, 2018 at 11:03 AM

    This poem highlights the simple joys and beauty in life that we take for granted, even during the hardest times. Keep writing, and keep focused and resilient!

  3. Kathy on March 21, 2018 at 3:28 PM

    I really like the last two lines of this poem. Nice work!

  4. Catherine Davis on March 23, 2018 at 8:16 AM

    Dear DJ, I love the line, “when pencil meets paper, my hand lets out the real me.” Your words are very moving and you’ve given me a distinct vision of your cell. I hope that you continue to find yourself and some relief in writing. Thank you for sharing this very personal and important poem.

  5. LifePoemsProject on March 28, 2018 at 5:16 PM

    Hi. Loved your poem!

  6. Vega Gullette on April 13, 2018 at 1:35 PM

    Wow. This is an incredible poem. I really get the message you’re trying to send. Your vocabulary is great and you emphasize words in the perfect way. I completely enjoyed your poem.
    – Vega, 7th Grade

    P.S. You should try writing songs; this sounds like some amazing lyrics already.
    P.P.S. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  7. Jon Kazor on April 20, 2018 at 9:06 AM

    DJ-all I can say is wow, this piece oozes emotion onto the paper in a way that makes the reader feel your longing for home. Stay strong buddy, life throws difficult situations at us, but our rebound is what defines us. People praying for you and everyone else going through a struggle.

    Peace, Love, Positivity,


  8. Justin on April 20, 2018 at 9:15 AM

    Dear DJ,

    I just read your poem “Incarceration.” I enjoyed it and was really struck by how personal and deep your poem is. What part of the poem really struck me is the part when you discussed looking at your beautiful niece in the visitation room. This part hit struck me the hardest because I have a niece myself and to see her in your situation could be rough sometimes, but it is good to know that she is there for you. I hope all goes well for you.


  9. Al on April 20, 2018 at 9:19 AM

    Hey DJ I just read your poem Incarceration. Your rhyming style flows nicely and is very impressive. The poem has a meaning as you described how you are trapped and can not reach the things you desire. I find that “When I call home just talking and thinking like that’s where I should be” was the most powerful line. It describes your inner struggle and desire to be free. I know that others in my school also struggle with similar problems. They are foreign students and are far from their homes and families. I wish you the best of luck DJ.

  10. Liam Maloney on April 20, 2018 at 9:31 AM

    Dear DJ, I just read your poem “Incarceration” and I was really struck by how you talked about your experience in prison. In particular, I was moved by the last line: “When I read, I travel to every place but Southeast.” Most of my family lives in Southeast DC and they always talk about how they feel trapped or unable to make change in their community. I feel that the line not only notes a fascinating aspect of reading, but also manages to capture the thoughts and feelings of the people from my hometown.

  11. Finn on April 20, 2018 at 11:18 AM

    Dear DJ,

    I just read your poem “Incarceration” and I really enjoyed it. I really was struck by how you talked about how you feel in prison and where you really should be. I really liked the line “When pencil meets paper, my hand lets out the real me.” It shows that you are putting your true feelings into this poem and all of your other poems, and allows for me to really understand what you are going through in this tough time in your life. I know how tough it can be when I am away from home and without direction, but is important to keep pushing. I hope that things get better for you and you get to where you should be.

    – Finn

  12. truthandloveweb on May 21, 2018 at 11:12 PM

    You’re never alone. Keep letting out the real you because your words are beautiful, and you’ll find your way back home again someday.

  13. Kayelynn on May 10, 2020 at 7:05 PM


    Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts with your readers. We can see how tough it can be emotionally in jail, but we also see the things that keep you going — your loved ones, your writing, and reading. Keep your head up when times get tough, your writing is beautiful and honest.

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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.