The Institutional Man


Waking up to this new day with no sign of a sun
Only the familiar vibe of structure, aggregate, and painted metallics
Relishing the cozy confines of limited space
And every possession within reach

This is life
This is home

Who dares to be removed from it?
Closed quartered kindred spirits and a family of Free Minds
All at once insulated and liberated from the burden of society

This is leisure
Though there is no peace

All must be counted for the whole to remain secured
So if one must leave
They and the rest will mourn

For the death of simpler things gives spirit to all manner of complexity
Of course, the question becomes
Who would bear the standard in the wake of such a removal?
And what changes many care?

Then, when will the foundation begin to crumble?
Or where would anyone look back to then?

But as well, for now at least…

How is sleep to arrive with all that in mind?


  1. Ray on January 11, 2023 at 9:44 PM

    Loved reading your poem, The Institutional Man. It is beautiful writing. The style reminds me of my father who was a poet too!
    Keep on writing your brand of poetry, it is appreciated.

  2. genesis on January 20, 2023 at 6:21 PM

    I find this poem very inspirational.

  3. Eleni on January 28, 2023 at 11:05 PM

    From my understanding, the theme of this great poem is the sort of “comfort” that comes with being incarcerated. The poem starts off by painting a great image of the setting for the reader, which I really enjoyed because it really helps to set the tone for the rest of the poem. The line “Who dares be removed from it?” is where the theme of the poem becomes clear, followed with a very clever line about the Free Minds Poetry project! I think this poem does an excellent job of bringing light to a topic which is very important but not talked about as much as it should. I can only imagine how difficult and disorienting it is to transition from life in incarceration, and I believe there should be more awareness brought to this topic in hopes of creating some sort of support for those struggling to transition. Overall, I think this poem is so powerful and well written!

  4. Ashley T on January 29, 2023 at 6:15 PM

    Hi TT,
    your poem was very powerful. It was interesting to hear about the sense of stability that you are experiencing, although it is within a tough situation. When you mentioned
    ‘closed quarters hindered spirits and a family of Free Minds” it made me think about all off the different personalities and stories that are in your space. I can imagine that there are so many different people, yet they share similarities at the same time. You also wrote about how there is leisure, but no peace. I think it is an important part of life, although sometimes it can sound cliché, to always look at what you have in front of you that you can be grateful for, which is why I appreciated your poem. It sounds like it can be very difficult to rest, as you mentioned, and find peace in this environment, however I think writing about what’s on your mind is a great place to start when it comes to finding little things to enjoy. Writing can be such a helpful outlet, and there are no limits as to what you can write, allowing you to get all of your thoughts out in a healthy and beneficial way. Your writing has a very impactful feeling, and I definitely encourage you to continue using poetry as a way to free some of that weight from your mind.

  5. Dulce on January 30, 2023 at 1:14 AM

    Hi TT! Your work is so incredibly powerful and inspiring. I think you have a lot of good use of words and techniques in this poem. It demonstrates how difficult it can be being incarcerated. So, I encourage you to continue writing and use this to free your mind and inspire others like myself.

  6. Colleen on January 31, 2023 at 10:05 PM

    You have a wonderful way of writing. At points, the poem was peaceful and light, but then, there would be a sudden turn taken, and it became dark and sad. This poem really allows people to look in and see a new perspective. It can allow people to take a step back from what they are constantly shown and they can see a new perspective. This is a great piece of writing.

  7. Christina on February 6, 2023 at 3:25 PM

    This is a thoughtful exploration of the ideas of “security”, home, and change. I like the double-meaning of security in this context; prison can be considered a form of security imposed on those who are incarcerated, while the familiar structure and order within slowly becomes another, possibly more positive form of security. I think the line “at all once insulated and liberated from the burden of society” poignantly sums up this poem’s theme. This really made me think, thank you for sharing!

  8. Peter Zhang on February 12, 2023 at 10:32 PM

    The topic of this poem is kind of dark and gloomy. Although we have a home, surrounded by friends and family, there is still limits and things might not be enough to support us through tough times. However, we must take care of what we have and value them. In this lonely world, it is indeed precious that there is still so much left you have. You are never alone.

  9. sf on February 26, 2023 at 10:26 AM

    “Insulated and liberated by from the burden of society” is a very beautiful line, it describes isolation from the rest of the world in a very profound way. Great job!

  10. az. on February 26, 2023 at 10:36 AM

    your work is very insightful, i really got a deeper sense of understanding your situation. it reflects both the hardship of your environment and your inner turmoil. even though peace is hard to find, i’m glad you’re able to find some distraction in writing

  11. Timmy Paul on February 27, 2023 at 7:16 PM

    Your words painted such a grey but vibrant picture in my mind when reading. The feeling of knowing leisure and not feeling peace is something that is a vaguely familiar feeling all people experience, and the conditions only amplify it the more you describe it. Thank you for sharing this feeling that so many have difficulty putting into words.

  12. Ben on February 27, 2023 at 7:16 PM

    The line that stood out to me the most in this poem is “All at once insulated and liberated from the burden of society.” I think the word choices of insulated and liberated create such a powerful image that is both contradictory and somehow still coalesces. I also felt the questions at the end. I think the particular word choice of “foundation” compared to the opening lines of the description of the structure is really thought-provoking. Foundation carries the image of a physical structure, but also a beginning.

  13. Logan on February 28, 2023 at 8:49 PM

    “Who would bear the standard in the wake of such a removal?” is so powerful. You have a way with words that convey so much emotion. I love the use of repeated rhetorical questions.

  14. Ellie on February 28, 2023 at 8:52 PM

    Dear TT,

    Thank you for sharing your poem. I really like the flow of this poem and the way that you have chosen to emphasize certain lines. I also like your use of questions throughout the poem, and closing with “How is sleep to arrive with all that in mind? is something that I think really resonates with readers. Keep writing!

  15. CO on March 11, 2023 at 2:10 PM

    Hi TT! I really enjoyed this poem! It is really deep and meaningful. It is scary to wake up in a place you don’t want to be. I am glad you have poetry as an outlet in order for you to express how this day to day life makes you feel inside. Although you are “liberated from the burden of society” it comes at a price which many don’t realize. Thanks for sharing this work.

  16. KC on March 13, 2023 at 1:39 PM


    I love your poem and the thoughts it produces. I love the contrast and rhythm of “insulated and liberated.” We make a home out of where we are and find both solitude and comfort. I hope you grow in your current circumstances in a way that prepares you for what lies beyond.

  17. Evelyn on March 22, 2023 at 3:44 PM

    This poem inspires me to think deeply about the life I am living. It is very beautiful and the word choice is really nice. Thank you for your poem.

  18. Isabella on March 22, 2023 at 7:32 PM

    This is a beautiful poem TT. Thank you for sharing. The contrast in this line– “Relishing the cozy confines of limited space”– speaks to your incredible ability to describe things that are understand unless you’ve experienced them yourself and the strength it takes to make the space you live in yours.

  19. Jazmyne on March 26, 2023 at 10:00 PM

    Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable poem. The words you use are powerful and speak to the life you are now living. How it is a complete change from what you once knew. Not only that but the flow of the poem is beautiful. My favorite line is “All at once insulated and liberated from the burden of society” this is because it speaks to the reality and the shock of your new life. Once again thank you so much for speaking on such raw emotions and experience.

  20. Oshane on April 11, 2023 at 10:54 PM

    Hi TT,
    Your poem does a fantastic job of exploring the paradoxes of life in confinement. The lines “This is leisure / Though there is no peace” speak to the duality of your experience, acknowledging both the positive and negative aspects of your life.

    I also like the line “Closed quarters kindred spirits and a Free Minds family.” Because it emphasizes the connection between those who share your situation and how, despite physical limitations, they can still exercise freedom of thought. It’s a lovely and inspiring message.

    Thank you for sharing your poem, and I hope to read more of your work in the future!

  21. A. on April 16, 2023 at 11:56 PM

    I love how you choose to articulate your thoughts with this poem. The symbolism and choice of words is so interesting and conveys a familial emotion to your experiences. Thank you for sharing and I hope you are well.

  22. RK on April 21, 2023 at 2:53 PM

    I feel that you really captured the conflicted feelings of this situation. The wonderful thing about poetry is how well it conveys the author’s personal experiences to others, even when they haven’t experienced the same thing, and you really use it to its fullest advantage! I really enjoy the touches of alliteration: “Closed quartered kindred spirits” and “family of Free Minds”. They add to the rhythm nicely. I felt most stricken by the lines, “This is leisure / Though there is no peace”. It’s simply put, but it conveys the meaning perfectly as a result, and then you go on to clarify your words, so the complexity of the thought comes through. Thank you for sharing this with others.

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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.