Life of Numbers

By SH aka Sincere Echoes

I sit in a six-sided box, 259 cinder blocks encased to hold me physically captured.
In my isolation, my 2 windows offer 2 different views.
1 for the inside and the cells don’t change, only the occupants face.
And 1 for the outside where the scene doesn’t change, only seasons, night and day.

So here I relax on 1 paper thin mat with two beds that are stacked.
And there’s 387 holes in the vent over for the air to flow
and my food gets shoved in one bean hole in the middle of my door.

1 table, 1 seat, 1 toilet where I sleep, 1 sink, 1 shower, 1 mirror
to see me stare at me and my 22 prison tattoos of ink
and 90 locks of dreads that sit on the crown of my head, twisted to the grits.

18 scars too that healed, but never quite heeled.
Cause I can remember the reason for each, of every scar that comes to be,
18 years in the belly of this out-of-control beast.

26 years olds when left those streets as I stare at these 4 walls
thinking back on my 13 felonies and the 188 months was a sentence of this case,
10 years in the feds, 8 years in the state, 4 guns,
put me away for a decade and my 3 kids ain’t got much to say
cause they grew up without me.

And I can’t count the many people who doubt me.
But know it’s more than my 10 fingers and 10 toes.
And these last 10 years I had to do it on my own,
except when Free Minds letters slide through the crack in my door.

Yet I still got 60 months left to go and all this is my truth and I can’t give you any more.

I’m inmate H— 2—064.
Counting my ways, counting my blessings,
counting my days, one day at a time,
giving you a story of the numbers of my life.


Identifying information has been removed to protect the author’s privacy.


  1. Cameron on April 12, 2021 at 11:14 AM


    Wow. This is such a powerful poem, and you have such a strong voice. Tying in the numbers of your life allows us to better understand what you’re going through. I always hate comparing people to numbers because they are so much more than that, so, to me, the numbers really focus in on how dehumanizing the prison system is. With all the numbers in your life, though, you are more than all of it. You are you and no number can define you. I’m wishing you all the best, and I can’t wait to read more of your work.


  2. Will S on April 12, 2021 at 1:01 PM

    Thank you for sharing such vivid and heartfelt details from the depth of your soul, SH! The way you incorporate numbers, stories, deeds, and more in this format speaks to a poetic and talented soul. The patience with which you have counted and collated the information that populates this poem gave me a chilling sense of your reality, a reality I cannot imagine. Hang in there in these 60 months and keep writing. There’s a world wide web, there are book stores, and there are people awaiting more of your talent for poetry. Be well, be safe, and keep writing. W.

  3. BF on April 12, 2021 at 3:54 PM

    Dear SH,
    I really appreciate the number usage. This is a very in depth poem. I really enjoyed reading this poem. Please continue to write

  4. Lauren G on April 12, 2021 at 4:54 PM

    Wow. This poem was very unique. I really like the motif of numbers and how numbers are integrated into your life. I feel like numbers and counting can provide a sense of stability because these numbers seem to be constant. Although numbers tend to be static, you have found a way to make them more abstract and meaningful in this poem. I really enjoyed reading it.

  5. ken on April 12, 2021 at 9:49 PM

    This poem is very powerful. I loved reading every moment of it. The description of everything created a great visual for me as I was reading. By far one of the best poems I have ever read. You really gave the readers an insight on your thoughts. Amazing job!! never stop writing!!

  6. Callie Cloran on April 13, 2021 at 11:06 AM

    HI SH, WOW. Your poem is one of the most powerful i have ever read. You should be so proud of your writing. I can only imagine the feelings you feel in the description you describe. Thank you for sharing. Dont stop writing!

  7. Anna on April 14, 2021 at 11:44 AM

    Your poem was great and I loved the way you described everything in numbers. Your strength shows in your words and you should be very proud of yourself. Keep taking it one day at a time. Your poems are great; keep up the good work.

  8. Wynette Yao on April 14, 2021 at 5:44 PM

    Hi, I read your poem and really liked it. I’m sorry that you’re locked up, without much to stimulate you. But you sound like you’re strong and calm, you’ve built yourself a good island. I wish you the best in continuing your poetry and writing and whatever else your imagination can provide for you. take care

  9. Megan Lencke on April 15, 2021 at 3:52 PM

    This is such a great poem. The amount of detail the author went into is incredible, and SH really helped the reader understand their feelings and emotions. I like how SH mentioned they were taking one day at a time because that’s all we can do. We can’t get overwhelmed by the future and just have to think about our blessings even when things are tough.

  10. Mack on April 15, 2021 at 8:06 PM

    Nicely done. I can tell there is a lot of emotion behind this writing; I too use poetry to express my pain. It can be a really great outlet.

  11. Emily on April 16, 2021 at 4:48 PM

    Hi SH, my name is Emily and I attend university in Detroit. The goal of my class is to engage with the community beyond the university and corporation aspects. I came across your poem on the free minds website and loved the vividness of it. I loved how descriptive your poem was. I felt as if I was sitting right there with you and got to see a glimpse of your life. The detailing with all the numbers you used was incredible and told a great story. The story took me into the place you were staying and what you are going through. Although, I will never truly understand your battle, just know that you are strong and can do this. Turn the thoughts of those who doubt you into motivation and a will to push on. Use the time to better yourself for your kids and also for yourself. As you said, count your blessings and take it one day at a time.

  12. Billie Marcheva on April 16, 2021 at 9:32 PM

    Hi Sincere Echoes,

    I can’t explain how much I am moved by your poem “Life of Numbers.” I feel for you so much and I’m so proud of your resilience and strength. You have so much value and worth and potentail, regardless of what anyone might say to you. There will always be people who will never understand. But there will also always be people out there who do understand, and who respect and appreciate you as you are. I hope when you read this you feel proud of yourself for your strength for everything you have overcome because I’m so proud of you and I believe in you.

  13. OM on April 17, 2021 at 11:49 AM

    Hi SH, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. Your poem is extremely powerful and though I cannot imagine the hardships that you have gone through, I appreciate you giving us a slice of it through these numbers. I also really admire the hope you expressed at the end of the poem with counting blessings and I think it is very commendable.

  14. Linda on April 17, 2021 at 11:14 PM

    The numbers are so powerful in this poem. There are so many numbers with such a powerful significance whether it be something that shackles you or what grounds you. I appreciate the stories and the numbers that I know each represent a different part of your life and way of being. I hope things get better and never forget to count your blessings. Thank you so much and hope poetry can help you express yourself even more.

  15. Isabella F Barbour on April 18, 2021 at 6:00 PM

    i love the flow that this poem has. I can hear your pain and sorrow. I can also hear in your words your hope for the future.

  16. D on April 19, 2021 at 2:01 PM

    This was beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspiring all at the same time.
    I thought the use of numbers was brilliant. It provided specific details into the poet’s life as well as a theme that held the piece together. It added a lot of perspective. Truly poetic.
    This piece was honest, thoughtful, and shows that the writer has a strong capacity to be deeply reflective.

    I don’t know the writer’s story but I pray that they can use this intelligence and introspection to move forward in life.

  17. Alexa Ruperti on April 19, 2021 at 9:12 PM

    Your poem really moved me. I can feel your pain and the wisdom you’ve gained through the months in your writing. I feel that adding the specific number of months, locks, felonies, holes, etc. was a very smart move, it stands out very much when reading.
    I hope to read more of your work

  18. Danielle Van Horn on April 20, 2021 at 8:13 PM

    WOW! I was initially drawn to your poem because of the title – I am a math teacher. Life is all about the numbers, just depends on what you do with those numbers. Negatives, positives, multiples, divisors – they can dictate the story of your life. Hope for positives in multiples!! In math, two negatives can make a positive. May not always be true in life but know there is always the possibility to change from a negative to a positive. I wish you a world of positives from Maryland.

  19. Amanda DeMichele on April 20, 2021 at 11:44 PM

    I really enjoyed reading this piece and it was super powerful to me. It shows how strong you are to have a positive mindset and focus on things that make you happy even in a difficult situation

  20. Victoria on April 21, 2021 at 8:41 AM

    This is an incredible work. The way you merged counting the things that surround you with the aspects that are a part of you is powerful. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Gabrielle on April 21, 2021 at 11:09 AM

    Wow. This is incredible. During those 60 last months, please don’t stop writing. You are a new inspiration. Maybe you can count how many people you have inspired too. You have 1 already.

  22. Abby on April 21, 2021 at 11:15 AM

    Hi SH, I read your poem and I really liked it. It really inspired me. I know sometimes life can be so incredibly unfair, and you can feel so hopeless, but it will get better. Sometimes it feels like no one understands, but we do. Life is hard and things get bad, but they will get better. Please stay strong. -Abby

  23. Keirstyn Johnson on April 21, 2021 at 7:37 PM

    You made me feel as if I was truly there. I felt you through your words and tone throughout this piece. One tip I would offer is when a number one through ten is being used in writing you type it out in words, but anything higher than ten is in numbers. I feel as though I know you without actually knowing you. Sometimes we meet someone and only get to know them by what we see on the surface; I love how with this I get to know you through the words and who you are on the inside:) great work!

  24. Nicole Nowicki on April 23, 2021 at 4:02 PM

    Hi SH, I hope you’re doing well. I really enjoyed the use of numbers in your poem. It was a good, constant theme and by including the amount of cinderblocks in your cell along with the number of holes in the vent. I felt like I could really understand your boredom and how much time you’ve spent in that cell to be able to count all of those things. I’m so sorry that you’re so isolated, but I’m glad Free Minds is a good outlet for you. I can’t imagine what you’re feeling, but I hope that you continue to write poetry. Your writing is beautiful and I can feel your emotions very well. I can’t wait for you to be released back into the world. People miss you, and I’m rooting for you!

  25. Edmon on April 24, 2021 at 12:20 AM

    Hi im Edmon and im in a class that aims to engage with the community beyond the university and corporations. This was a really really good poem, I felt like I was next to you as you were writing this. I liked how many numbers there were in it and it was very descriptive. Its just a very wow poem. Everytime I read it It I can think of a different meaning to all of it. Good job and Good luck in the future.

  26. Grace on April 24, 2021 at 12:32 AM

    Hi SH! I wanted to let you know how talented you are, and how you should always keep righting. You painted a perfect picture of what your life is like and I truly felt as though I was there.

  27. Mallory Stewart on April 25, 2021 at 4:48 PM

    This is an incredible piece of work. The theme of numbers and counting was very well executed and you did a great job at conveying raw emotion through the writing. Your optimism in the last stanza is inspiring and it is incredible to see you counting your blessings despite the way the universe can be so unfair. Thank you for sharing and my best wishes for your days ahead.

  28. Julia Powell on April 26, 2021 at 3:42 PM

    This was beautiful. Dark, realistic, and beautiful. Just wow. In a time of such uncertainty, find happiness in the small things including yourself. You’ve got this!

  29. kelsey on April 26, 2021 at 8:06 PM

    SH, you really captured an image here. So powerful and moving. Great work.

  30. Jay on April 28, 2021 at 8:02 PM

    The use of numbers in this poem brings the words of each line to life. Your description of everything in detail helps us readers visualize and understand what you write. I was able to see what you were describing in my head as I was reading it. You mentioned how you have done the last ten years on your own, but this platform has given you a way to connect with others. Thank you for sharing your life of numbers with us, I hope you continue to write and express yourself through these poems.

  31. Rebekah Ralston on April 29, 2021 at 9:06 PM

    My favorite line:
    “1 table, 1 seat, 1 toilet where I sleep, 1 sink, 1 shower, 1 mirror
    to see me stare at me and my 22 prison tattoos of ink
    and 90 locks of dreads that sit on the crown of my head, twisted to the grits.”

    I liked this verse because it helped me visualize where you are and what you look like and how you feel about what you look like and how you got there. Keep your head up, this is an amazing piece of work.

  32. Barbara LInn on April 30, 2021 at 9:41 AM

    The beauty of your soul shines brightly through your mind even though your body is trapped in a prison. Equally there are minds trapped in bodies that do not function but those minds are still capable of great things. It occurs to me reading your poem that you too are capable of great things. You are truly a blessing to all who encounter you through your writing. Thank you for sharing.

  33. Cathie on April 30, 2021 at 9:43 AM

    Dear SH, I love the way you build such a strong impression of your environment – the bricks, the view, the sameness of it. Your positivity is amazing in the face of it! Hang in there.

  34. cm on April 30, 2021 at 11:36 AM

    Hello! I am currently a student in a college writing course, where we focus on interacting with the communities outside of the university to enhance our learning. As soon as I started reading your poem, I was hooked. I think the use of numbers throughout the writing was so smart and creative, and it really helps readers start to understand the environment you are living in. I can picture the amount of time you have spent looking at all these walls, mirror, and windows, and how you have noticed every little detail of your unchanging surroundings. I do hope you continue to see the positives and count your blessings, even when it is hard. I encourage you to keep writing and expressing yourself through poems, I genuinely believe you have a real talent.

  35. Annie on May 1, 2021 at 9:09 PM

    Wow. I love how descriptive you are in this piece. I almost feel as if I am in the cell with you. I appreciate hearing your story and your struggles. I want to wish you the best of luck now and in the future and I hope you have positive days ahead. Keep fighting.

  36. Brittani Forman on May 2, 2021 at 5:00 PM

    Dear SH,
    I have been following your work for a while and I should say I love it every time. I like the use and commonality of the numbers. Keep work and writing.

  37. Aracelli on May 2, 2021 at 10:42 PM

    Hi SH! I really loved the use of the numbers to describe your life. I’m a STEM major, so I’m used to using numbers as a point of analysis, but here I like how you use the numbers to show that you are more than them. The contrast the numbers provides shows that you can’t be confined by any amount of numbers around you. This sends a very powerful message about how we try to categorize people, when really we should view everyone in their full context and see who they are outside of what’s on paper. What a powerful poem.

  38. Reilly Gorby on May 5, 2021 at 10:49 AM

    Wow this poem was wonderful. I really enjoyed your usage of numbers throughout, and believe it added power to your words. You did a fantastic job and I hope you continue to write beautiful things such as this.

  39. Auna Brooks on May 11, 2021 at 4:17 PM

    This poem left me crying. The raw emotion was so present, it struck me to the core. Never stop writing, this is incredible. The line breaks carry through the stanzas beautifully and the rhythm feels, freeing, somehow. Thank you for sharing your talent with us

  40. Ma on May 13, 2021 at 8:48 AM

    Wow, this was a really powerful poem that is real and dark in such a wonderful way. The ability you showed to convey such raw emotion was heartbreaking yet brilliant.

  41. Fin on May 22, 2021 at 9:35 AM

    A truly powerful poem that really hit home whilst I was reading it for the first time. You crafted this piece in such a wonderful way, especially the line breaks throughout. I really great piece of work, thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  42. Maddie on May 31, 2021 at 5:27 PM

    Wow, SH, this is a really profound poem. Numbers are often used to display statistics to make one’s argument more powerful, and I think your use of numbers to represent different aspects of your life has a similar effect. Seeing it all laid out like that really makes the reader reflect while also empathizing with your experience as best as possible. Although I can’t relate to what you’re going through, this poem tells your story in a way that allows me to peek into a window of your life that has been broken into easy-to-picture numbers. But there is certainly more to your life than what you can sort into numbered boxes, and I hope you are able to hold your head high and stay strong! Thanks for sharing.

  43. Hannah on August 19, 2021 at 10:34 AM

    This poem was stunning. Through your words and the way each line started, I felt the emotion and grief that you hold in your heart. I’ve always imagined numbers defining a person as grades and test scores, but you have shown me a different way numbers fit into my life. You have a ton of talent, and I hope to read many more of your poems.<3

  44. Tanishka on August 19, 2021 at 10:43 AM

    SH, I absolutely loved the strength in the numbers. The imagery and visualization that you provided through simple numbers was impressive. As a STEM related major, I have been around numbers for most of my days. I’m so happy Free Minds is a good outlet for you, and I hope to read more of your work in the future. Best wishes.

  45. Mona Villesvik on September 20, 2021 at 3:57 PM

    Using numbers as a way of telling your story was so raw, powerful, and incredibly clever! I felt like I could really visualize your life’s events, as told through your tattoos, sentencing, and the descriptions of your family on the outside. It was also both powerful and heartbreaking to hear you describe yourself as a series of numbers rather than as a person. Stay strong!


  46. Shaili on October 17, 2021 at 6:03 PM

    Thank you for sharing this – it’s a powerful poem and it demonstrates the unique approach you took to portray your life. I am wishing you the best & keep writing!

  47. Chynel on November 2, 2021 at 1:28 PM

    I love your poetry! What a unique way of describing and analyzing your life! I was able to really envision all that you were talking about and understand more about the system you described. I hope you continue to write because you have a great talent for it!

  48. Noor Mansoor on December 6, 2021 at 8:09 PM

    Hi! My name is Noor, I’m a freshman at Wayne State. I really liked how you mentioned numbers throughout your poem and started a few of the stanzas with them; it was really powerful. The incarceration system in this country is so messed up and certain lines in this poem like, “18 scars too that healed, but never quite healed,” really capture that. The last stanza was a strong way to end it and it is a sad truth that many incarcerated people are dehumanized and not even referred to by their names. Your poem was beautifully written and good luck with everything!

  49. tnicholson13 on December 7, 2021 at 1:22 PM

    SH, using numbers to tell the story of your life is such an interesting idea. I really liked how you stayed consistent with it and used the theme throughout the poem. I think it also speaks to how we sometimes we don’t assign meaning to people (especially inmates) and just refer to them with non-specifics such as numbers.

  50. Francisco Salinas on December 11, 2021 at 1:56 AM

    Hi, Sincere Echoes. I find it awfully motivating that you have to count as a way of living life. I would like to say that you really help us get to know what it is like to be in a prison scenario. One positive thing is that you are able to stabilize your life by counting numbers. It is a very motivational and healthy way of thinking about life. I think what is most inspiring about this poem is that you keep holding your head high and have not given up yet. Take it slowly day by day and you will get there, my friend. Your patience is incredible.

  51. Rachel on December 12, 2021 at 12:53 PM

    Sincere Echoes,
    The way you put life in perspective is beautiful. The way you use the numbers to keep everything situated. Best of luck with your last months.

  52. morgan on December 13, 2021 at 2:54 PM

    Dear SH,
    Thank you for sharing such an insightful poem. What stuck out to me most was how the numbers were implemented in your poem. Tying in the numbers of your life allows us to better understand your reality. The repeated use of numbers draws attention to the facts that are happening. I find it very unique to use numbers in explaining what you see and experience day-to-day. The numbers are a great way to allow the reader to visualize and reflect on what you personally are going through. The numbers additionally represent the life you are living. Each line uses a different number to represent something new with a different meaning attached to it. The beginning of this poem is merely about the facts and the size of your cell, all well the end is more creative as you dig into your emotions and explain your truth. This truth being about those of the people who doubt you. You keep counting as a way to distract yourself and get through these times. Your words show how incredibly strong you are and truly showcase your capabilities. Keep up the good writing.

  53. Andrew F on May 25, 2022 at 9:23 PM

    SH –

    Great poem. The use of counting so many things so exactly tells me “I have all the time in the world.” It’s the result of an inspection, an inspection done because there is so little around you to observe so you take in so many details. You extend that inspection to why you are in prison and what is and is not waiting for you outside prison.

    Thank you for this poem

  54. Sadie on July 12, 2022 at 11:41 AM

    You truly have a way with words, this is an incredibly moving piece of work.

  55. Levi on July 12, 2022 at 11:41 AM

    This may be over a year after you wrote this, but this poem stood out to me so much that I had to comment. This was an incredible poem, and paints such a vivid image of what is happening in your mind. So much has already been said in these comments, but I just wanted to say how great your poem is.

  56. Ruby on October 17, 2022 at 6:46 PM

    Hi SH, this is such creative and beautiful writing. Your idea to tell the story of your life through numbers is genius, I loved reading this. You created vivid imagery and I could see the things you were describing like the cell and the views from the windows. I also enjoy the vulnerability of speaking about your scars and your children and such. Thank you for your honesty and bravery in putting it out all out there for us.

  57. Kayla on November 3, 2022 at 2:05 PM

    Powerful isn’t a big enough word to describe this poem. You managed to show how dehumanized you feel, how small you feel, but also how capable you are. You have had everyone telling you that you couldn’t make it through, but look at you now, you did it, and did it with an amazing amount of strength. You fought all the doubts and proved everyone wrong. I love how you incorporated the number because I feel like a lot of people don’t know how much you really do have to yourself and this shows that the most you could do with your time is count the amount of wholes in the air vents or the amount of dreads you have in your hair. I want you to know that I am proud of you, you have done the unthinkable and you did it by yourself. I hope you keep writing and I hope you succeed in the future!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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.