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.

My Mural

By DS

If I had the opportunity to design a mural mine would be a tribute to the mothers.
Mothers from all over the diaspora,
mothers from Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, and the U.S.
The mothers on the mural are teachers, because mothers are our first teachers.
I would have Ida B. Wells, Maya Angelou, one of our strongest poetic voices.
Assata Shakur would be in the middle standing on the Globe.
She represents the struggle for freedom by any means necessary.
You already know the Free Minds women are on there
Along with the sistaz from Black Lives Matter.
Behind the Free Minds family would be the poem I know why the caged bird sings.
There would be faces you wouldn’t know because all mothers are important.
I would have Nina Simone and Billie Holiday and Lauryn Hill
Front and center. Nina and BIllie singing about strange fruit.
Lauryn telling us why you just lost one.
Meshell Ndegeocello can play the bass.
While Nikki Giovanni is explaining through her poetry why Tupac was important.
My mural is a living mural so I would like for it to grow
I would like to add more faces and poems.
We already call Earth Mother Earth, we call nature Mother Nature.
I believe if there is a God she’s a woman.
Women give birth to everything, the female aspect is the most important.
So my mural is about mothers giving birth to movements,
Important moments in history, art, science, and math.
Like the sistaz from Hidden Figures and the first black woman in space.
Most of all I want my mural to represent the strength and resilience
of our Mothers, our sisters, our Queens

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How Many Angels?

By RL

Dear America
How many angels
gunned down
in schools
out shopping
dancing
dating
sleeping
living
loving
before heaven fills up?

How many hopes
choked to death
by murderous protectors
shot to death
by law enforcers
robbed of
all the unknowns the
what could have been’s
the future
before all that’s left
is to give up?

How many flowers
strewn on sidewalks
hollow promises
podium bombast
lonely dinners
empty arms
child sized coffins
before we wake up?

How many Angels
would it take
crying in
your
house
before you Stand Up!!!!

How

Many

Angels?

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Haiku

By JS

I hear the birds
and I smell freedom
I taste it.

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77 Minutes

By IS

For 77 min they waited to go inside
For 77 mins they waited to save their lives
Why?
Were their lives not that important?
Or was it just another tragedy and misfortune
‘Cause of the mishaps of police
Another 1000 years of mourning
‘Cause peace makers aint keep the peace
Why?
‘Cause it wasn’t your lives that was in danger?
The unarmed is killed in seconds
Active shooter killed hours later?
No hatred towards the police
Just hatred towards their decisions
A principal may have survived
But our principles are no longer living
I’m livid!
Thought Dear America grabbed your attention
Too many voices stating opinions
Nobody to sit and listen
Are we finished?
I’m talking about humanity as a race
For 77 minutes our heroes just stood in place?
No way!
And left children to a darkened fate
And left parents hearts filled with hate
Those are feelings they can’t escape
Mistake?
How many more do we have to make?
How many souls get snatched away
Before making America great…again?
Or was it ever?
Or was it all just an endeavour
To bring this country together?
And make falsehood look like the truth
‘Cause the truth, is January 6th was the biggest stage
For the revealing of the face
Of a country that’s set ablaze
Amazed that they couldn’t stop it
And for 77 minutes they sat and practically watched it
Ukraine is the trending topic while we are waging wars with ourselves
Throwing bodies inside a cell and strip millions of mental health
Then call it rehabilitation
Denial towards the facts that should prove we are mental patients
And patience is getting thin
‘Cause nobody ever listens to the mentals that needed saving
if you save a man’s mental
You probably can save a nation
Shave a couple minutes those children probably make it
77 minutes?
What’s the reason that kept you waiting?

 

Note: “Dear America” is a poem by IS that is featured in the Free Minds anthology When You Hear Me (You Hear Us).

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Ode to My Daughter

By AHA

You bring joy to my life
You inspire me to become a better man
–that changed my life–
And become the best version of myself
Without you, joy would not have entered
So suddenly
When I needed it the most.
So this is why when I think of you,
Joy of my life,
I smile

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Speak Your Truth

By AL

allow your words to define who you are through your actions!

and trust that I see you for you, because we are all trying to reach the same goal,
a perfect place to embrace amongst the multicolor of the rainbow.

like the north star you shine brightly. therefore cast your light to the voiceless
while striving to provoke change,
expressing gratitude, laughter and love in the presence of your own pain.

don’t be fierce in your quest for love and reject all forms of hate.
for tomorrow is not promised to us, so grab the spot light now or forever wait.

i can see the caterpillar transforming into a beautiful butterfly.
bare your soul to the world and allow life to be your only natural high.

let your spirit run wild through the fields of unlimited youth.
and each day as you become who you say you are, bravely speak your truth!

**a special dedication to the mysteries of the rainbow. happy pride month**

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Ode to the Nameless Immigrant

By AC

Ode to you:
He, who seeks a better tomorrow
He, who is willing to leave in the past
All that he ever knew to be true,
All of the things, the faith, the hope and the dreams
That fit tightly in a backpack
As a souvenir
Of a life that just wasn’t meant to be lived

Ode to you, my dear:
She, who stares at death in the face
And says in a barely audible voice
Drowned by the cries and the tears:
No, I cannot be afraid
I cannot die, you see
Not now, not here, not today
As she keeps walking further and farther
Right through the hurt of all that she has known
She walks off the pain
And speaks once again:
I have children to feed
I have people I love
Who possess desires and needs
I must forge ahead on this path to the future
On this path where I’ve left
The tears I could shed
The sweat I could sweat
And the blood I could bleed

Ode to you, beloved:
Ode to the nameless immigrant,
Citizen of the future
Resident of today,
Who fights for a chance in the place
Where the milk and the honey
Simply flow down the street
A place that we know as the home of the brave
A place that we know as the land of the free

Good luck, happy trails, on your way getting here

May the weight of the heat from the sun
Caress your soft face with a touch that is gentle
Instead of pushing you down as you grasp for dear air
May the strength of the waters that run through the rivers
Keep you afloat long enough
For you to comprehend that there is hope
For you to see that your dreams
Were nourished enough to survive
All the tests, all the trials
All the ups and all the downs

It is people like you that we need
It is people like you
A trailblazer, a pathfinder
A true worker of lands
Who harvest the seed of faith that he plants
A warrior of sorts who knows no defeat
Who is unable to grasp the meaning that hides just beneath
The senseless definition of words such as quit

It is you who we need

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Who Would Know?

By JH

Who would know I got my mind right?
It’s obvious that at home I was blind
But who would know I got my eye sight.
I have an L plus 50
Which means they want me to be locked up beyond life.
The food is so bad, you don’t want to know
What I would do for a Klondike.
Most guys finish school in here
They will never get to have a prom night.
I know you could give a lot of these guys another chance
But who would know that I’m right?

The case manager and parole board only sit down with you
Long enough to count to 5 twice.
So who would know if someone’s a different man
Or if that person wants to do and be better than?
Those that have that job
Don’t seem that interested in giving a second chance
They know they’re going to deny you before you enter the room.
They won’t even give your case a second glance.
You stay up all night, thinking about what you’re going to say
Just for them to give you that
Come-back-in-5-years dance.

I pray to GOD I make it out of here with my sanity
While my mind is clear and advanced.
But who would know?
I’m stuck in a live-right-and-positive-everything trance
Instead they judge you
Off of the vibe of everything past
And their excuse is to say
You haven’t changed, you have everything masked.
I realized now that they throw some of us in here
And want us to remain trashed
And that some people don’t care
That I’m a changed man
The fact is I had a chance

Maybe my first was my last.

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The Author

By DT

I got your hug today
Not with your arms but my shoulders
As alway I’m astounded by how far
It raised my spirits and hopes
You crush the loneliness and sadness of being shut down
But also give me a high that you can’t but
Compare to the lost being found
A note to tell me that I am loved and thought of
A moment of your time to make my day
I thank you for your care and love
And that same love I convey
A love that break the barriers of aloneness
And causes my heart to remember:
Beside friends, God, and loved ones,
My life can go on.
I am never alone.

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Best Friend

By MV

You asked me
“Where are you?” and
“Where do you live at?”
I don’t like to lie,
So of course,
I went around the question.
“I live over the mountains,
By the ocean, 14 hours away.”
“Do you live in a lighthouse?”
“You can say that, there’s
A bright light and a tower.”

All of your questions are valid
And I will always listen.
You’re my nephew and now,
My best friend.

I see my younger self
In your questions
I would ask your grandma
“Where’s my dad?”
“He’s in the sky.”
“Does he fly airplanes?”
“No son, he’s with God,
he’s watching over you.”

Death and prison,
Two things children can’t comprehend
Like teaching them calculus.
The only thing they understand
Is presence, or lack thereof.

The temptation is
To make me your hero
But time will only bring
Disappointment,
Like no one showing up to your game.
The grand image,
Evolves into something realistic.
My “lighthouse,” a prison,
My lessons, examples I never followed
The cape becomes
State blues,
The mask falls and
I’m just a criminal.

But for now,
I’m your best friend,
Your sounding board,
Your cheerleader,
Someone to trust
Someone you talk to
About building things and
Your joy in running,
And whatever else.

“Sy”, if you’re going to build,
Become a master of foundations,
So that you’ll build
As high as you wish
Continue training for stamina
So that life’s race
Will never wear you down.
And know, your best friend
Is here always.

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Free Mind

By TL

I got a Free Mind, full of lots of thoughts and ideas
My body locked up in the pen, but my mind is not here
I know I’m finally coming home at the end of the year
Every time I think about it, my eyes almost shed a tear
I can’t wait to ride foreign, push start, switchin gears
Nice clothes on my body, diamond studs in my ears
Only focused on my future, leave the past in my rear
It used to be a little foggy, now my future seem clear
Coming back to the system, only thing that I fear
I wanna make my mother proud, keep her from shedding a tear
I learnt some lessons on my own, some things I ain’t wanna hear
They left me froze up in a police light, stuck like a deer

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Emotions

By JS

Everyone has emotions, whether they are good or bad.
Sometimes we choose to hide them…
Is that good or bad?
We’re all humans and come from the same path.
Some goes left / others going right
But our emotions are all the same,
Some up or down or in between

Having feeling means you’re human and not a lame
Express how you feel and don’t feel ashamed
Always keep in mind that emotions cause pain
Let them all out to remain sane.

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