About the Poetry Blog

The poets featured on this page 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. These 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.

Click on the poem title to open it up, and then post your comments, feedback, and encouragement in the space below the poem.

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.

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Untitled

By AG

This is not a poem
It’s not a sonnet
It’s not a written piece of verse

It’s not a prose inscription
Arranged poetically
It’s not an essay of few words

It’s just an origami
Of whatever you want
No folding required

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Nothing to Hide

By VH

All this wasted time in a federal prison
I didn’t take the cotton out my ears and put it in my ears and listen
This isn’t the way to spend life, I won’t do this anymore
I’m still young and there’s a lot of positive things I haven’t done before

Incarceration isn’t built for rehab
And I’m educating myself, paying this tab
In situations I’ve learned to walk away
I refuse to be locked in a cell again, this to God I pray

Coming to prison was once a fear
I wake up everyday, can’t believe I’m really here
The devil’s inside me, I won’t let him put me down
And the day I succeed, I will make sure I wear a crown

I am the company I keep
And I won’t stop until I change myself, there won’t be sleep
Life is what you make it
And I learned we all make mistakes, nobody is perfect

I can’t keep up with the old me, I have a family to feed
Things will change, my liberty is all I need
I have to put my pride to the side
For when I’m back on the streets, there’s nothing to hide

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Hidden Within the 13th

By KW

One word killed the Eric Garners and George Floyds of America.
One word deprived them of life and happiness.
One word hinders African Americans from the sweet joy of liberty.
One word denies us our equality.
One word allows injustices to go unchecked.
One word permits the violation of our rights.
One word created mass incarceration.
One word killed the Sandra Blands and Breonna Taylors of America.
One word will keep black lives inferior.
One word.
The word… “except.” 

Amendment XIII 
Slavery Abolished 
[Proposed by Congress Jan. 31 1865, ratified Dec. 6 1865]

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

“I will never forget what a great shock this was to me, here, for the first time, I was made aware of the existence of a race problem.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1929-1968

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Free Minds Poem

By SB

When nobody was there, you was
When life brings me down, you’re always there to help me up
When I’m not feeling good, you always know what to say to put a smile on my face
It’s like you can read my mind even though we are so far away
And when I thought life was blank, you guys taught me how to pick back up my pen again
So I wanna thank all of my Free Minds friends for helping me open my camera lens

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Me in 23

By SH aka Sincere Echoes

Suppressed echoes
encased in sincere truths,
I lay low like fog
and touch many like raindrops
embodied by force…
I am significant

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Never Again

By DJ

You crossed a desert and an ocean to find me
In a rainforest sitting under a tree
To me the only friend in the world was the sky and the leaves
Then you step in my path
Oh dear, a Queen in the form of water to refresh my soul
Laugh until the sun came up and then she turned cold
One touch shattered her
And a lavender breeze took her away from me
The sky and the leaves couldn’t believe the king of alone
Was tricked by the breeze

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Judged Cover

By MV

I’m known on a last name basis
In a place
Where numbers come with faces
Will you ever know me
On a first name basis?
More than the name I mean
I’m more than a criminal, you see
I once had dreams
Skateboarding and BMX competitions
Once an innocent seed
No impediments to my visions
Then came abuse as a child
My ability suddenly in question
A pure heart defiled
Smiles turned into depression
From selfless to selfish
What have I become?
What you consider wrong
Is normal to some
A bitter life prolonged
Is easier said than done
So I became an expression
Of what I felt within
Though innocent were my intentions
My life was filled with sin
Reckless in my behavior
Because I didn’t value self
Putting myself in danger
Was my cry for help
So I cried and I cried
So did my mother every night
While her tears were literal
Mine were more mystical
My actions held a deeper meaning
Preventing others from seeing
And a talented kid from being
All he wanted to be
Crime gave me meaning
And a gang provided safety
Until for my pain
There was no more compensating
It took a precious life
Just to see how precious was mine
It took so many squandered years
For me to value time
It took me all that doing wrong
Just to do what’s right
It took a cell all alone
Just so that I could cry
All you have to do is look on your screen
For you to make judgements about me
But that will never tell you
About the real me

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Identity Crisis

By MC

Is the real me
Who I was or
What I’ve become?

Is the change in my life
A run from fright,
A cry for help or
A heavenly plight?

Envision my past,
Make a mental collage
It seems my life is a
Stagnated growth spurt

So much learned,
But such simple mistakes,
Like a mile run
In back pedal.

Am I the Dancing Monkey,
Or the Empowering Imp?

So much abuse
So much promise
Famous or infamous?
Which will rule?
Which will I choose?

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Peculiarities of Love

By AC

There is so much power in this word.
Four letters,
one syllable,
and stored within it,
the power to change the whole entire world.

Many people refuse to believe in love at first sight,
and yet, if you were to ask
your very own mother what it was like
to contemplate your existence
for the very first time;
to see your small body,
to see your small hands,
and at once be able to grasp, then comprehend
that you were by far
the most perfect extension of her.
She will tell you
there was nothing other than love
for you in her eyes.

Then there is the true love of a father
for his own lovely child.
Even if you haven’t witnessed this love,
hopefully one day you will hold
the blood of your blood,
believe it is real, and you will no longer need
to live the rest of your life in denial.

Then there is the other side of love,
the one that keeps pulling us together,
trying to diminish the distance
that divides our lonely souls
It goes jumping from one heart onto the next,
giving us reason after reason
to smile, to laugh, to hug.

Love is also the silliest of bugs.
It morphs,
from a friendship into maybe a little
something more.
It draws the best within our beings,
giving us reasons to look up into the sky,
to wish, to imagine, to dreams, and to hope.

This bug can be transmitted in a smile,
and maybe through the sparks within our eyes
Maybe in the slightest of a touch
of our hands
as we talked,
unaware of how the hours passed us by.
Maybe it was the way her dress fluttered in the wind
to remind me that I’m alive
Maybe it was the smell of her perfume,
or the way her hair glowed
under the moonlight and the bright stars.

Four letters,
one syllable,
and stored within it,
the power to change my little world.

About this poem: This poem speaks of the power of love. It lists some examples from the bigger picture all the way to the smallest picture. It touches on motherly, fatherly, friendly, platonic and romantic love in that order from stanza #2 through #6. But wait! There is more! My beloved reader, if you were kind enough to read the poem backwards from #7 to #1, you should be able to imagine a love story unraveling going from a first date all the way to the couple being proud parents and ready to take on the whole world. This is my Happy Valentine’s Day to you and may every day of your life be a day in which you feel loved and cherished. For what it’s worth, I love you dear reader. Thank you for your time. As always, enjoy!  

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Family

By LM

Never take them for granted
They can be here today and gone tomorrow
It may be too late for the “I wish I would have” moments
Cherish them while you can
There will always be a constant lack of communication
But you’ll always be family

Every family has their share of ups and downs
But that brings the family closer together
Family is there when you need them
Sometimes missing in action
But there when you need them
Family is all we have
And sometimes we lose sight of that
But nevertheless
We’re reminded when we need them

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Quintessence of African American

By PJ

My country…
Tis of thee.
Bittersweet land, apparition of liberty.
So long withheld from me…

Of thee I see
Land where my fathers died,
Land where the pilgrims cried.
A pretense of courtesy,
But held disdain deep.
Likewise, today people in positions of authority
And opportunity.

My country…
When will you unchain the shackles: mentally
Historically, and physically
That bind us
Civilly to hypocrisy.

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