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.

The Gates of Hell


Everywhere I walk someone else uses a rusty key to go through
The Gates of Hell
And I’ve aged with all the rusty keys slowly dying in my prison cell
My once lovely brown eyes have turned pitch black like the darkest stone
For I’m hurting inside, the pain deep within my every last bone

Gang Affiliation and criminal activity, that’s the path I chose
And my so called “friends and family” are gone and my life’s been put on froze
When the heat of the sun hits my face I can’t tell if its sweat or tears that I’m tasting completely
For I’m anxious, I’m sweating, I’m hurt, I’m crying, and it’s only my life I’m completely wasting

I was moving fast on the outside, being put in here they moved quicker
And sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy my mind gets even sicker
Headaches cloud my thoughts and I imagine that my brain is bleeding
For a little comfort, I have none, love’s been what I’m needing

I’m tired of telling stories and I just want to do my time
For I know how to pay my debts, this tale is truly mine
There’s no escape but across the fence I can see that the grass is a
Marvelous green
And I feel like my life’s been a movie and this a long dragged out scene

24/7 I feel that I’m a temperature rising fire
For if I don’t make some changes I’ll be looking down at my dead
Body, my spirit ascending higher and higher
The gates of hell, “prison,” one day I’ll walk no more
And then I’ll hold the keys and I’ll forever pray til then that I
Finally choose the right door

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When I think of power, I envision someone
Who can move mountains
In a poor, famine country he can build a fountain
Giving people free blissful water
Someone when they see homeless
They don’t hesitate to give a quarter
To all the charity work of Doctors without Borders
Single mothers who still adopt children
Lending a bed, sheets, and covers and hot food in the oven.
A woman who does make up and hair.
A rape victim who refuse to stay quiet in her chair
Her story matters, so I do care
Men who built landscape every type of hard labor
To the doctors at St. Jude Hospitals
They’re the real saviors
Someone who gives without looking for return favors
To the great teachers whose presence demands attention
In a classroom
Even to juniors who sanitize and clean bathrooms
Power is giving, building, uplifting, motivating
To see power in one another
So let’s come together as sisters and brothers
Plants and stem, then blossom to a beautiful flower
Now that’s power

(Free Minds is power)

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Are We Under Attack


Say their names
Ahmaud Arbery / Breonna Taylor
I can’t breathe
George Floyd
Are we under attack
“2010“ Aiyana Stanley Jones
Gone but not forgot
Are we under attack
2nd guessing police protection
The untimely demise of so many
Is why I’m stressing
Feeling like a target
In my complexion
A shade I can’t rest in
Until I’m finally resting
Are we under attack
Tamir Rice / Michael Brown Jr.
Are we under attack
6, 7, 8/20, 21, 22/34, 35, 36/48, 49, 50
I lost count after that
Are we under attack
Those are your murders
So explain that
“Just us” in fact
How unjust is that
Justice don’t run in black
Are we under attack
So what am I to do
When your animosity
Stands between
Are we under attack
When black lives matter
To “us”
Not you
Are we under attack
What I refuse to do
Hate you back
The lack of equality
The injustice system
I hate that
Undermines my hue
Enforces the barrier between
Are we under attack
We were created equal
Slavery was abolished
Segregation your sequel
Are we under attack
Say their names
You got the answer to that
Are we under attack
See the cultural diversity
On the front line screaming facts
“Black Lives Matter”
That so many
Support your crap

Author’s Note:

Throughout this writing I frequently refer to are “we“ under attack.

I purposely used “we” rather than “are blacks under attack,” simply because the use of ”we” is my personal endeavor to pay homage to the vast majority of Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and others that unite under the banner of seeking justice, enforcing the constitution and advocating that Black Lives Matter.

Each and everyone of you are deeply engraved in my usage of “we”!

In solidarity,


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One Sweet Day


It touched my heart just to hear from you
For my world’s been upside down, you can only imagine what I’m
Going through
I’ve traveled that road and I’ve had enough
And I’ve come to learn that I’m not really that tough

Grown men cry, I’m living proof
And the pain I’ve endured is beyond the truth
I need someone like you to stand by my side
Someone to be there, to let me know I’m still alive

Right now I’m in hell, I feel home’s a lot like heaven
So make a toast with me on that day and night the clock strikes eleven
I can hear their whispers, those dead that I love
Be there to save me, the other turtle dove

I want a life for me, my son, and…
A shoulder to cry on, a friend to take my hand
My road was dangerous but still I’m left to be
So don’t be just a voice in the wind, be like the shadow that walks beside me

Going away’s like drowning, so hard to breathe
And it’s time that I let go, to God I concede
I know you’re there and you’re really not that far away
Just know I’ll see you soon and that’ll be one sweet day

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We used to chase the moon so we could play around with stars
until the sun stole all the fun, we were the dark, some of
us fade away, we only come to play for a bit…
When shadows dance with shadows, yeah, shadows dance
with shadows…

Like dim pieces of light, we were made to fight, to
shine and everything seem so dismal in this life, and other
spark across the sky just had to die, like a tear fallen
from eyes and then the shine is wiped away…
Then shadows dance with shadows…Yes, shadows
Dance with shadows……

When love makers seem intimate, others, melancholy
sentiments, a wish for bliss with knowledge that all of this
is so quickly lived. Then endings are inevitable…See, shadows
dance with shadows. Yeah, shadows dance with shadows.

If all the world’s a stage, why does this seem so real. The life
we lived, the way we feel, the devils play to make their deals
but our hearts have been sealed before… Cause shadows
dance with shadows… Tomorrow’s never promised. How do we
die? How do they remember us? How do they live after
us? And… where do we go from there?…..
cause shadows…Dance…With shadows…

Rest in peace J.W., The B boy Niko, R.C.H AKA
Sincere and others I can’t name here. I pray for
y’all’s forgiveness from above…Insha Allah

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Nostalgic Paintings: That One Song


I still remember those moonlit nights all those years ago.
I was just a child,
But the memory of your face will never go.
These nostalgic paintings
Created on the canvas of my head
Will always hold your voice, your warmth, your smile.

I still remember the pounding of my heart
As I laid in bed,
Replaying the precious moments of the day
That I spent by your side;
Slow tunes carrying my soul on waves of harmony,
Like a raft floating on the ocean, under the stars.

I still remember the name of that one song,
The one that for a second allowed me to believe
That only if you would hear it,
You would know how much I loved you
And just how much you meant to me.
But then again, I was only just a kid.

Author’s note: I was around 12. She was like 2/3 years older than me, and I honestly never got around to telling her that I “loved” her. The song was “Una Aventura” by Grupo Niche. My favorite thing about the Hispanic Culture is our music. Enjoy!

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Collateral Damage


Wherever, you are now
I want you to know
Far your actions continue to go

The day you decided
To take my father’s life
Uncertainty and loneliness coincided
You might as well of taken mine
I tried my best to hide it
But I really wasn’t fine

The day you pulled the trigger
You also left me with a hole
A piece of something bigger
That I would never get to know

I wonder if you had seeds
If you wonder about us bastards too
A life haunted
By past misdeeds

Anger towards my parent
Was a symptom
My thinking was errant
My father too was a victim
But how do you explain
Death to an adolescent?

You deprived me
Of certain moments
A ball thrown to me
And words never spoken

You made my innocence
Vanish faster than expected
In a sense
You helped build the walls I erected

You reversed my life
I was enslaved while free
I found freedom inside
Now that I
Find myself in your shoes
I understand
Your point of view
A grown man
Finally seeing
Where his vision was skewed

We’re much alike
In that I repeated
The cycle of a life deleted
Tears stream down my eyes
As I
Think about the lives …
Lived with a void

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Feeling Afraid


I can do no wrong
In the eyes of a guy that takes lives
But live his life as a lie
And they wonder why
After all I have done
I wait at the end of it all to cry
But when I told them to leave me alone
They didn’t understand
At the time I was put out at 12
I was considered grown
And months later I confused Youth Services Center* as my new home
But they talked about me and laughed instead
So I held anger for years
And couldn’t control the urge
To react with violence
Even though I was really scared
I developed an attitude which has led me where I am: in jail
And they don’t know how it hurts to be real
So sometimes I wonder why I am not dead
Every night, I sit in my cell and think
Is it reality or am I tripping?
Because I can hear the walls talking to me
And I wonder, should I continue to listen?
In a strange way it feels good
Even though I know the Devil is on a mission
But God is not quitting
So there’s two voices I am hearing
So am I brave for admitting that I am afraid
But do not know what I am afraid of?
Or should I just hate the feeling
That feels good to love


*DC’s juvenile detention facility

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She reminded me of honey in the sunlight
Light brown eyes
Cascades of curly “Q” hair
She definitely had me mesmerized and fascinated
Questioning if I should just leave it at this?
The turn on
Just flash a smile and a slight head nod?
Or, say something?
Get caught up in lies of an introduction?
Maybe I’d be surprised
Safer to just enjoy the moment in admiration and let it pass
But… hmmm…
She smiled back…

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Where Is Superman When You Need Him?


Where is Superman when you need him?
He could have swept through,
and stopped the police from giving that beating.
Used his superspeed to catch the bullets,
before they hit and stopped his breathing.
It’s messed up that people have died for the littlest reasons.

They needed him.
I believed in him.
But maybe next time he’ll show up,
before someone’s lip gets blown up.

Then the police can go back to eating donuts
and drinking coffee.
Then the rioters won’t riot,
and property damages won’t be so costly.
Trump can go back to talking about how tall the wall will be.

If Superman showed up sometimes,
imagine how easy the police’s jobs would be.
They could keep the shields, tear gas, and riot gear,
all locked away within the armory.

I could leave my home and wouldn’t have to worry,
about the police bringing harm to me,
unless he has to fly off
to figure out where Lex Luthor’s next bomb will be.

I just hope he’ll fly through
and be the superhero he is in the comic scenes.
Maybe then the Black man’s future
will be more promising.

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I keep looking at these trees
From this window, I can see
Them inside the cemetery
Each evening and now
They stand between me and the sky
I imagine weeping willows in the south

They remind me of old photographs
Depicting southern pastures
Especially when the evening sun
Is orange and it splays through the leaves from
One tomb to another
Last night I smelled gunpowder

Rightfully so, rightfully so
I’ve just learned of another loss days ago
A female’s daughter
Decades after her loss of a brother
There’s something about this city
The cemetery, weeping willows, and gunpowder

Entombed last night
On the 4th of July
Through the trees
I could see
The fireworks, the city was smoky
The cemetery was dark–hovered a mist
Created between gunpowder and humanity

Rightfully so, rightfully so
The nation’s capital, it’s as though
The weeping willows have been there as long as those
Confederate sympathetic tombs
And trapped between the two
The mist of souls lost to gunpowder

Oh say can you see the ghost
Luminous on the road between the tombs?
The bombs bring to light
The gun powdered creed

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John Lewis


Dedicated to John Lewis, one of my heroes

I remember when I met you in 2001; when you spoke at my high school in D.C.
At the time, you told us “good trouble” was your motto
And what you stood for was equality for all people
Listening to you, I was inspired and sought to learn more
About you, but never forgot the day I got to shake your hand
The trouble I engaged in wasn’t good and sent me away
But I always remember your speech at my school
When I got to see the movie Selma, I knew your name would become more well-known
For those who didn’t know

You paved the way for many and stood on the frontline for a nation in peril
To change the narrative with many other leaders like yourself
When I saw the documentary “John Lewis: Good Trouble” on your life’s work
I watched how you pushed for the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and other laws you passed
But I remember the words that would forever stick with me
Which was when you said, “We only pass through this way once”
I took these words to mean how you fought for so much throughout your life
That you’ll get to do once and leave the legacy behind of what you have done to live on

You got the chance to witness the rise of a new movement
And encourage us all to continue the fight
And kept your voice heard by all, even while sick
So I honor you, look up to you, and will never forget all you have done for the cause
And all people throughout your life on this Earth
May your name live on, and may you rest in paradise


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