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.
A lot of people don’t understand our swagg.
They don’t get us, so they stereotype us,
Try to put our unique character in a bag.
“Oh you from DC? Yall crazy!” yeah, I heard it all before.
But don’t be quick to judge, give us a chance we’ll show you more.
See slim, yoon (you don’t) even know da (the) half of it.
Our muvahs (mothers) and favahs (fathers) had to grind errday (everyday) just to make sure
That we were warm and had a plate
Our bruvahs (brothers) and sistas (sisters) had to watch us while they worked.
We stayed close, stayed together, to make sure none of us got hurt.
We grew up in da trenches, projects in erry (every) part of town.
Norfeast (northeast). Norfwest (northwest) Soufwest (southwest) & Soufeast (south east).
We are a small city wif (with) a big heart.
So don’t try to dumb us down when a lot of us are really smart.
They call us savages too, beautiful chaos, a city wifout (without) order.
They can’t figure us out, they say it’s something in the wartah (water).
Nah, it’s just how we live and how we vibe.
It’s how we was raised that keeps us alive.
A lil chicken wings + mumbo sauce, to get us through da day.
In the winter some Ben’s Chili Bowl wif a half smoke on our plate.
All they brag about is da other part of da city… The Monument, White House, and the Capital.
All the tourist attractions, Gallery Place and Georgetown which now resembles the Big Apple.
Errything’s different now. Looks like I’m coming home to a completely different town. They say home is where the heart is, and DC’s my home for sure. And I’ll never forget where I came from
So it’s time to leave up out these prison doors.
Eager to be in the wind, and to swim with no doubt.
Thoughts becoming perplexed, and never living in doubt.
Eager to be free, eager to see.
To fly beyond the sky’s seeking the entitling of times.
To cross the Serengeti in destitute times. “The mind”.
“Eternity”, to become eager with your mind.
Eager to show who I’ve become.
Eager to shine just as the sun.
Eager to win “we won”.
Eager to end we begun
Living life under the sun
Did you know the mind took time to grow, with eagerness it was created.
Struggling times, never allowing life to consume the mind, with eagerness we overcame.
So here we come, we overcame.
I thought of you last night, I thought of what you became
When I dreamed, I awoke calling your name,
The Fire in me, to love you forever.
No matter what, I chose to never give up.
I chose to shine bright, not just on you, “but everyone”.
Eagerness in the sun, soul, and mind, conquering destitute barriers inside your mind.
Red Roses, Blue Skies, and a Eager Mind.
I am more than my crime,
I am more than my crime,
I had to say it twice,
Because if I’m lying, I’m dying.
I am a son to my mother,
A sibling to my sisters and brothers,
A dad to my children,
But is anyone listening?
My crime doesn’t define me,
Even though my conviction may stand,
I am “Pa Pa” to my grandchildren,
And to my Bae…I’m just her “Man”.
I am more than my crime,
And EVERYONE will see,
That I’m more than my crime,
And I’ll prove it once I’m free.
Life is what I’m living behind these Prison Walls
Prison life a pressure, keep my back against the Wall
Separation and Death from loved ones, companions, and friends
My child ask why I can’t come home
Hardship, infuriating frustration turns pain into anger
Anger is a flame when flaming hot burns to a bitter end
Fear, being afraid of losing everything and dying in a Federal Pen
I’m blind and cannot see, this time is slipping away from me
Like slipping into darkness
Snakes, smiling faces, backstabbers, bad habits and broken promises
Is an everyday thing coming from where I’m from
Seems like there’s no justice
My Counselor calls me a trainwreck waiting to happen
I guess it’s like a quiet storm on how cold I’ve become
With a heart of stone, distance and time does change a man
Now the system is designed to have you on an emotional roller coaster
Not knowing which way to go, losing your mind
Staring at the walls having suicidal thoughts from poor decisions
I believe a change is gonna come one day
You have to have the motivation which makes you stronger
To use this time positively instead of negatively
Learning will take you to a higher ground
By AB aka Strife
Pain and strife, I’ve known for half my life,
Pain and strife, I’ll never quit the fight,
Pain and strife, it’s a warrior’s life,
Pain and strife, a lot of tears shed at night
Pain and strife caused me to sleep with a knife,
Pain and strife, the struggle is real in life,
Pain and strife, a lot lost the fight
Pain and strife, made me pray to God at night
Pain and strife, made me want to give up on life
Pain and strife, I finally won the fight
Pain and strife, I finally changed my life…
Thank you! Allah for letting me see a new day.
Thank you! For keeping me out of harm’s way.
Thank you! For helping me with my life,
Thank you! For finding me a good wife.
Thank you! For my family and all my friends,
Thank you! For forgiving me of all my sins.
Thank you! For giving me some wealth.
Thank you! For keeping me in good health.
Thank you! For all that you do,
So I would like to say, thank you!
I’m cut from what James Farmer built.
Congress, what are you forgetting about CORE?
If I belong to what made William Garrison,
Why is the next candidate in a seat not
Campaign after campaign,
Promise after promise,
Talk after talk,
Ends with no results.
John Lewis is turning in his grave.
Frederick Douglass, we are lost!
The money make ‘em forget who they
Democrats got the House,
But still don’t help right the wrongs
Of old that keep African Americans in
I’m a fourth-generation “freed” slave.
Why do I belong more in prison,
Than in my family’s company?
Because I belong to a history that still
I belong to what Ralph D. Albernathy is cut from.
There’s no place like home,
Instead, the streets I chose to roam,
There’s no place like home.
I wish the older guys in the community would have taught me or
Shown, the time I’m doing is hard and long.
Now I’m stuck and all alone,
I came to prison as a kid but now I’ve grown
I’d give both arms and both feet to just be home.
I’ve made a promise to myself to teach the youth that there’s no place like home
And to never leave our loved ones all alone.
Because there’s no place like home…
Every June you see the celebration
The outfits and confetti
A myriad of colors that fill every major city
A coronation for all the kings, queens, and everyone in-between
Who dared to walk their own path to freedom
Our journeys are different, but sadly tend to look the same
You see the dancing in the streets but not the pain he felt when dad said, “You’re not my son”
You see the signs with LOVE displayed but not the signs of depression from years of isolation by the cool kids
You see the flags but not the crying as grandma had the minister exorcise her
‘Cause she wanted to exercise her right to love
You hear the music but not the tears that ran as we plotted our escape
From families, religions, and expectations
From painful experiences that told us and showed us
We are not enough
Somehow, some way we found the grace that was not given to us
And grace the world with our presence
Choosing to embody the essence of love
And use it to pave the way for a brighter future
A future many have tried to deny us
But we stood up and fought
From Stonewall to Pulse
We bared a cross that was not always ours to carry
Pride is a painful past, a hopeful present, and a bright future
Pride is pain and struggle
Pride is love and redemption
Pride is hands held with former enemies turned family
Even if it means we get no apology
It is the continued fight to see and be seen
To live as the unapologetic heirs to the throne HE said we are
Pride is everything
Nothing and nobody can take it from us
Because it lives within us and seeps into everything we do
Pride, we didn’t always have it but we have it now
And we live loud and proud because we deserve to
The noise is deafening.
My heart pounding in my chest,
Louder than the sound of the plane’s engines.
Excitement, anxiety, longing is excruciating.
People all around me: so close, yet so far.
A sound came and added the excruciating wait
Announcing, “We will shortly depart. Fasten in your seat.”
This flight is not just my freedom flight.
This flight has taken me home.
This flight has taken me to where I took my first breath.
This flight has taken me to where my eyes first opened and saw the light.
This flight has taken me to the Tigris River: to where I took my first sip of water.
This flight has taken me to where I took my first steps on this beautiful earth.
This flight has taken me to my family: to their hearts and eyes.
This flight has taken me to my friends, to my neighborhood, to my city.
This flight has taken me to regain my memory.
In every person and corner of the city,
The memories are forever alive: the tragedies and happiness.
This flight has taken me to the soccer field I played on and the joy it brought.
To the marketplace; to the schools I attended.
This flight has taken me to where a young heart fell in love, innocent and pure.
This flight has tak…
Suddenly something is pulling me out of my seat
A noise—a horrible, familiar noise came!
The sound of the prison officer’s keys clinging wakes me.
I awake to find myself back in a cell, and it was but a dream.
I will never stop dreaming until my dream becomes a reality.
I will keep the ticket and reschedule my flight.
The Dragon is inside of me roaring to be free.
Word to George Jackson, Angela Davis, and Assata Shakur.
When I read those books, their stories left me
Thirsting for more.
Discipline is the foundation; the core to survive
The struggle, I work my body until it’s sore, take a shower,
Then read some more.
You see, the words on the page are the food we eat.
The knowledge we gain is the tools we use to get
One thousand burpees on the yard. Well-disciplined.
Going hard to make it home. No room for weakness.
Suckas a pull ya card. They always more than one
‘Cause they really ain’t hard.
In tune with the Leaders and Ancestors before me,
Who left behind their Spiritual Energy, which remains strong.
We still fighting so they live on.
Discipline got me surviving 72 hours in the box.
Every three days, a five-minute shower.
Word to Albert Woofdox and the Angola 3.
43 years on 23 and one.*
Discipline got me doing push-ups on my fists until my
Knuckles are numb.
Behind these walls, to be Disciplined is a weapon.
Stayin’ strong and focused: Meditation and stretchin’.
From the Books, I study the lessons
Of those gone and still living.
Even though my peoples are physically free,
They’re still trapped in a mental prison.
It’s going to take a lot of discipline for us to see
The day of truer living
A lot of love
And a lot of giving.
*23 and one refers to solitary confinement, with 23 hours per day in a cell and one hour outside the cell.
I breathe in I breathe out,
I breathe in I breathe out,
I breathe in I breathe out,
Body and mind became 1 and once again
I open my eyes and I am in a cell
but I feel like I am on a cloud.