I can see picket fences, smiling sun faces
I can feel all traces, the golden tongue laces
Feeling like running races is all I’m good at
Picking paces and anxiously waiting post stamps.
The hood claps
And I wish I could hear it
Who woulda thought confinement would make you death to hearing
Took death to living
Still waiting for an answer
Praying God’s Forgiving
Forgive survival through sinning
Forget the lies they bidded
When they told me I had chance
Facing life in prison
When they told him raise hands
While I’m cuffed in system
When they took my own homie in a PE Lesson
When they spit at my family in a language undressed
How could I /forget the fuckin language they pressed.
Another hearing where we never ever heard
Still I hear the word through a bird
Who sings a song through wood and steel/
I know why the caged bird don’t kill
I know what the caged bird knows – REAL
I fly high through the strife of my bill
Praying family sees me for what I am- REAL.
Cause Lord knows those power in sure don’t
Making an image outta me for
Struggle they Never had to post
Amounts raised as if my family could post
I’m in this cell but I’m not the only one living in hell.
I’m in this cell trying to maintain relations through mail
Trying to keep my soul alive and make sure my mom stays well
But my mind state swells – and I enter different realms.
Been in since I was 14, I’m 26 and already done 12.
So watch what you’re saying when you speak about my name
Watch which side you’re playing when you enter this game
I sit and wonder when I’ll see my family again.
I sit and wonder how fast time can pass and how to deal with a lost past within.
But I keep on.
‘Cause no one can take what’s inside this muscle.
What survives this struggle.
What shines through this hustle.
You can lock up a body, but you cannot touch this mind
And shit can kill-
But it can’t redefine or affect the resurrection of what’s mine
The divine is within-
So even without,
We find a way to make it through homie,
I’ll see you on the outs.
Mary Rowlandson in her Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, describes her experiences as being held captive by Indigenous Native Peoples. She describes the trauma she underwent, while also softly speaking against certain stereotypes of Native Indigenous tribes. Rowlandson in her text depicts fear, a sense of helplessness, but also documents the intimate interactions she witnesses as captive amongst populations she had previously never been as close to. Rowlandson story became a best seller throughout the colonies, aligning with a traditional American tactics to put white endangerment at the forefront of all that’s important in America. When a young black boy gets shot by the police, it means nothing to white America. When a 14-year old Latino boy and his high school friends get sentenced to life without parole in prison, as a minor, it does not face headlines. Yet, when a white, wealthy person from a prominent background, faces the slightest threat to prison, it makes headlines and lawyers are there to rescue.
This poem is dedicated to the thousands of American youth who have been held captive in the American prison system with no proper rescue, and whose stories are never heard. This poem reflects a captivity narrative that audiences might not be so welcoming to hear as they were with Rowlandson, for it reveals the problems within our broken judicial systems that intertwine childhood well-being/ safety, while also addressing broken sentencing laws that create large amounts of disparity amongst our youth, men, and women of color. This poem is written in 1stperson perspective, however I find it important to acknowledge that while this piece was written in 1stperson to depict and imitate the narrative style of Rowlandson, this is not my experience and I will never know what it’s like to go through this. This poem aims to honor the resilience of the youth whose stories this poem attempts to reflect and hopes to shed light on the struggle of surviving freely within a nation of policing and imprisonment.
There are men and women sitting in prison for things they did as a child who are still fighting for their story to be heard, for the justice they deserve. This is for them.