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Prison

By Reginald Dwayne Betts

Prison is the sinner’s bouquet, house of shredded & torn
               Dear John letters, upended grave of names, moon
               Black kiss of a pistol’s flat side, time blueborn
& threaded into a curse, Lazarus of hustlers, the picayune
Spinning into beatdowns; breath of a thief stilled
               By fluorescent lights, a system of 40 blocks,
               Empty vials, a hand full of purple cranesbills,
Memories of crates suspended from stairs, tied in knots
Around street lamps, the house of unending push-ups,
              Wheelbarrels & walking 20s, the daughters
              Chasing their father’s shadows, sons that upset
The wind with their secrets, the paraphrase of fractured,
              Scarred wings flying through smoke, each wild hour
              Of lockdown, hunger time & the blackened flower.

Added: Wednesday, July 2, 2014  /  From "Shahid Reads His Own Palm" (Alice James Books, 2010). Used with permission.
Reginald Dwayne Betts
Photo by Rachel Eliza Giffiths.

Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of the memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison (Avery/Penguin, 2009), for which he was awarded the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction. His books of poetry are Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James, 2010) and Bastards of the Reagan Era (Four Way Books, 2015). Betts is a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow, 2011 Radcliffe Fellow, and 2012 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow. In 2012, he was appointed to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by President Obama. He is a graduate of Yale Law School. He was a featured poet at Split This Rock Poetry Festival in 2016.

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