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 Beloved

By MH

They ask me what’s wrong with your beloved?
She looks sad, heartbroken, and in despair
Where is her smile you often praise?

I answered them my beloved is sick
She’s in pain, she has been for awhile
It pains me to see her this way

But I know she will heal
She will smile again
She will stand on her feet again

For I know my beloved
Hidden beneath all the chaos you see
Hopes, dreams, joy, and prosperity

Author’s note: This poem is about my home, which I miss and think of a lot, as well as my family, friends, and neighbors.  

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Amongst the Broken Men

By CB

I’m living in a world where you’re called
By numbers and not your name
On lockdown, behind a wall in rusty chains
My hands and feet are in shackles, so I can’t move
This the first time in my life
That I don’t know what to do, and
Not even my family knows what I’m going through
Being forced to eat small portions of shitty meals
And if we complain, they say, “We’re lucky
That we are being fed.” They got grown men
Sleeping on bunkbeds. Many men have
Committed suicide for living under these conditions
They then told the C.O.s that they were going
To do it but they ain’t listen
I was taught to stand for something
Or continue to fall for anything
These men must been brought up differently
Cause they don’t stand for nothing, but count time
They bring opprobrium to my race, because
They quick to fight each other but won’t
Even fight for their own freedom
And none of them have thoughts of escape
It’s like they are scared of these gates
They got me surrounded by cowards
Who are content with being oppressed
By racist a** C.O.s, that applied pressure
The institution is the new plantation
It’s slavery at its best, yet we fail to rebel
Because they install slave mind frames in us
That cause us to get side tracked
And look forward to mail, but I refuse
To be like the rest, so I stand alone
Because I’m amongst broken men and
Once something been broken once
It could be broken again
Amongst the broken men

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I See You

By BH

Looking through caged windows
So many faces, so much pain
Immigrants being treated less than animals
Hunted down and casted away

Homeless, displaced with nowhere to escape
God’s children
Traveling from place to place

It’s hard to call myself an American
As this can’t be the American way
What happened to the land of the free
The home of the brave
The Christian or Patriot way?

The days of yesterday has faded away
Dreamers are still dreaming
Still I see you, and will fight for you always

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Remembering My People

By PJ

Look at my people

And Grandma’s slow movement
In her knee-length gown, slippers on
Braids cover her head, like a crown
I love her bold features, her high cheekbones
Broad hands grip her snuff can, and her eyes
They have a far away stare
But they’re focused as they keep secrets

Daddy’s fat hands pat his afro, as he picks it
I love the smell of his cigarettes
He always looks at me like he can see everything
Like he’s far ahead of what I think; he’s so serious

Mama, with her determined walk, never a wasted movement
So patient, and understanding; a refuge of sorts, from Daddy
She always indulges me
It seems they look alike with their afros and their slacks, their button-down shirts
They say opposites attract; she’s as light-hearted and forgiving as he is intense

Brother’s smile, looking like Daddy
With Mama’s patience, Grandma’s wisdom, and my innocence
My faithful companion, my confidant
I try to mirror him with his smooth black skin and wavy hair
The way he sucks-in his cheeks and puckers his lips
I recall drawing a mustache over my lips to mimic the peach-fuzz over his

Grandaddy’s big feet as he walked, dragging his black, big shoes
I recall: his hat and coat hanging in the hall by the stairs; I’d try-on both
Still today, I remember the smell of the inside of his fedora
Like Barbasol and Old Spice
Look at me, remembering my people

Grandma’s wisdom came from her full lips as I looked into her tired eyes
Never can I forget the deep lines in her face; wrinkled
She told of times long ago before slipping again into her doze
Being as young as I was, I couldn’t comprehend when she talked about love
Older now, I realize: hers was a traumatic experience
Now I understand: she had enough hope to dance around intimate details of: whips and ropes

Once I heard Daddy talking to Mama, he mentioned
Being called a nig–, again- I call David that all the time
Daddy said: “It reminds me of Virginia where they hung Tim.”
He said he hates remembering: Tim’s body swinging and jerking; he could still see the twisted mouth
Daddy said: “I hate what happened in the South.”

Brother’s eyes, they look just like Daddy’s
When he came to see me I rushed him – to say goodbye
Later – they found him beaten and shot
Brother’s companionship is deeply missed as he slips into drug and alcohol addiction
Brother’s “tagging” at my hip is a memory only as he’s been engulfed by the streets
His naïveté replaced with ruthless ambition; a do or die attitude
To get money, there’s nothing he won’t do
How did my brother become enslaved in the 21st century?
New chains, a life sentence that he can’t escape
In a penitentiary

Mama’s cries sometimes are silent
But they’ve embedded and etched the pain on her face
She carries her sorrows everywhere, that way
Still she’s beautiful, in more than a weathered way
Surrounded by masculinity, she’s the glue
Without her what would we do?
When Brother died, I never saw her cry
When I cried, only a look of familiarity
After Daddy’s death she was the pillar of stability
She’s family quintessence
Where it begins

Look at me
Remembering my people

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Untitled

By VC

I often envision being a part of another world
Where the better person in me can truly unfurl
A world where I am not perpetually judged by my greatest sin
A world showing me how it feels to be forgiven
A world where I can smell the sincerity
And those that were once foes but become dear to me
The ultimate bliss
This would is a mentality so I know that it exists

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The Love for My Daughter

By SM

The love for my daughter is so strong
That if the San Francisco bridge was to collapse or break apart
It would put the fallen pieces back, holding it together forever
The love for my daughter is so bright
It could brighten the world like the sun brightens the morning
Or the moon brightens the night leaving no dark spaces on the face of the earth
The love for my daughter is so precious
It’s like holding on to a diamond necklace heirloom
That your great, great, great, great, great grandmother gave to your mother
And they passed it to you and said,
Never take it off, it will protect you
The love for my daughter is so unique
It’s like your first pair of Jordans you got on your birthday
That you never wanna mess up, so you step light
It feels like you floating or stepping on clouds gliding across the big blue sky
The love for my daughter is so important
It is like having Barack Obama in the mall with hundreds of secret service agents
And the street blocked off for miles, letting no one in
The love for my daughter is so powerful
It would resemble a punch or a haymaker being thrown by Iron Mike in his prime
The love for my daughter pushes me so hard to do great by her
It’s like Jackie Robinson in a baseball game that nobody wanted him to win
And doing everything in their power to make him lose
But yet he still found a way to calm his mind
Hit that home run and win the game

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A Message to the Community: A Letter from Prison

By RW

I offer my condolences to the families who have lost loved ones
And became victims to the violence

I offer my apologies for having been derelict in my duty and responsibility as a man
In not being the guardian, educator, and leader my communities needed
In order to be vital and life-affirming

I want to inform you that it is my goal to counteract the insanity of the destructive mindset
And I do not embrace those who prey upon any people
But particularly, my people

I want my voice to be heard:
Let the violence, drug dealing, physical, and spiritual abuse of the communities stop

As a man, I want it to be known that I have come to value and recognize
That the children need and deserve a safe and secure environment in which to grow and develop,
Be educated, have access to equal opportunities to excel,
And become who the Creator intended them to be

I ask that everyone reading or hearing this looks at a child
Whether at home, school, at play, in church, or mosque, and consider these words:

I am the African child

The whole world awaits my coming, all the earth watches with interest
To see what I shall become
Civilization hangs in the balance; for what I am, the world of tomorrow will be

I am the African child

You have brought me into this, about which I know nothing
You hold in your hand my destiny
You determine whether I shall succeed or fail
Give me, I beg you, a world where I can walk tall and proud
Train me, as is your duty unto me
To love myself, and my people
And to build and maintain a great nation
It is I who proclaim

I am the African child

The whole world awaits my coming, I shall not delay it
For I too have a dream

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Paint Brush

By TD

I keep my paint brush with me
Where ever I may go
In case I need to cover up
So the real me doesn’t show
I’m so afraid to show you me,
Afraid of what you’ll do – that
You might laugh or say mean
Things
I’m afraid I might lose you

I’d like to remove all my paint
Coats
To show you the real, true me
But I want you to try and
Understand
I need you to accept what you see
So if you will be patient and close
Your eyes
I’ll strip off all my coats real slow
Please understand how much it
Hurts
To let the real me show

Now all my coats are stripped off
I feel naked, bare and cold
And if you still love with all
That you see
You are my friend, pure as gold
I need to save my paintbrush
Though
And hold it in my hand
I want to keep it handy
In case somebody doesn’t
Understand
So please protect me, my dear
Friend
And thanks for loving me true
But please let me keep my paint
Brush with me
Until I love me too

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COVID-19

By GD

Never have I witnessed something so horrific
A pandemic! World crisis! Coronavirus!
It struck so suddenly, moved so rapidly
A catastrophe!

Death tolls are beyond anything imaginable
How did so many die before it was taken seriously?
Now we have “somewhat” prevention
Insistence on practicing social distance

But no vaccine, treatment, or cure
However, our Commander in Chief declared war?
In that case, this must be World War III
And still counting casualties

It has to be, something more we can do to calm us
Because this “pandemic” has caused pandemonium among us
Frantically panicking, our first preservation is self
So we are racing impatiently to clean out every shelf

Worried about bills, but don’t have a clean bill of health
And this virus is collecting on any past debts

Am I getting through yet?

Simple cause and effect, they neglect the cause of death
But focus more on the cost of the threat
Now we enter the realm of economics, politics at its best

But from a worldwide view, it just looks like a big mess
Now, how can we fix that?!
When the fear of going broke is greater than the fear of dying
When losing your job is greater than losing your life

In spite of the incompetence of our leaders
We will defeat this COVID-19

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Forgiving Myself

By HM

At times I wonder if I can really forgive myself for all the bad things I’ve done! Then I ask myself, why not? If I don’t start with my own self, who’s going to do it for me first.

My past self would say damn I was right. If I shouldn’t start forgiving myself, how could I do it for somebody else.

I want the courage to tell all the ones, that one day considered me as an enemy, that I have forgiven you all for all those things that once you did to me.

When I look up I see the sky and the clouds but far away, I can see God of me has been proud.

Inside my heart, I hear my stress has been released.

My heart desires to forgive everybody, to forgive myself.

My circumstances at this moment are not the best, but I keep going without falling.

Forgiveness is wealth like nothing in the world.

That’s why I love myself.

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Welcome to the Fort

By RW

Let me tell you about a place I know
Filled with broken dreams and lost hope
A place if visited within your dreams
Would turn nightmarish by thoughts provoked

A place created many years ago
When a father was taken from the only child he knew
Now he’s stuck in memories as time goes on
Trapped in a world where thoughts never move

A place you need to see in order to believe
Filled with desperate cries and dreamy screams
A city where angels turn dark and cold
Now demons plundering for the hope of lost souls

A place where children are stripped of their youth
Left alone with no direction and confused
As time ticks forward, away from their past
They run backwards towards a time they never had

A fortress built to captivate souls
Whose burden on society was way overbearing
Within it, worlds residing in a timeless space
Humanity has chosen to ignore

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Relentless

By ML

Every day I pray that things will get better
Every day I say that I will keep working hard
No matter what’s pulling me the other way
Every day I pray that times will get better
Every day I say I will get back to my family
And no one will stop me
Every day I pray, no matter what I have God by my side
Each and every day!
Every day I say that I will get free
Every day I pray that I will get home
In one piece
Every day I say I won’t let no one stop me
Every day I pray that my life won’t go back to the streets
Every day I say I’m going to do the right thing and go the other way
Every day I pray God will keep leading me in the right way
And not the wrong
Every day I say, I won’t let no one pull me back the other way
Every day I pray that freedom take me the right way!

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