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Prison poetry II

Prison poetry II

Prison cell with the words 'Prison poetry II" superimposed over it.
Photo by StudioTempura

The Spider and I by E. B. T.

This was written by an incarcerated person who has been in solitary confinement for over a year. He is allowed to leave his cell to exercise for an hour a day in a concrete room alone.

About six months ago, I discovered a spider had taken up residence with me. I would sit and watch her for hours. I wrote this about that time. Watching her, it seemed we had a lot in common.

The web is in the corner.
A strand at a time
The habitat is formed.
Savagely racing
From chore to task
Working to complete
A job that will never
Be finished.
Days end.
Time is infinite.
Sitting, listening, breathing
So it is with me
Just as
The spider in my cell.

Seeing Me by L. B.

I saw a man today while sitting quietly.
He was one I had not seen before and
He smiled wonderfully!

He seemed to shine with an inner warmth,
And I asked him curiously, “What is your name my friend?”
So then he said to me,

“Why, you know who I am.
You just never see me clearly.
I am that part of you that loves very dearly.

“But because of your ignorance, your suffering and your blame,
it is hard to recognize my face
and know we are the same.

“And now as you look inside and heal your broken part,
we can share happiness
and become a single heart.”

Window by E. B. T.

Although E. B. T. had quit an Aryan gang because he was tired of the hatred he found there, the authorities still put him in solitary, where he has been since 2000. He can only rejoin regular prison population after attending a rehab program for gang members. He has been on the waiting list for that program for three years now.

A minute pane of glass
Dawn dispenses with the ebony sky
Ritualistic beauty as only nature knows
Scampering squirrels
Dew soaked flora
The cheerful lilt of the hearty wren
Awakening the world to the wonder of life
Peaceful yet exhilarating
The view from a barred window.

Winds of War by E. B. T.

Swirling winds
Vivid color streaks across the pre-dawn sky
Golden sands from eons past
The ancient desert is alive
Fireside meditation
Some wonder what the morrow will bring
Others yearn for yesterday
Some dream of castles built in the sand
Others envision streets of gold in the air
Determination, stubbornness, honor, and greed
Loyalty, fear, treachery, and courage
We all cry, “You are evil.”
If we are all first, who is left to be last?
Mothers, wives, daughters weep
The war goes on
Carrying the essence of the dead to the heavens
And beyond
On swirling winds

My Hands by E. B. T.

My hands…
Palms up
Resting in my lap
Prying fingers
Unveiling changes

My hands…
Grasping for love
Holding onto attachment
Throwing away the past
Groping for truth

My hands…
Wiping away tears.

Inner Eye Open by L. B.

I awake to the day and sit in meditation
Breathing deeply, then recite my dedication.

Calm forms as I follow my breath.
My mind transforms beyond birth and death.

I perceive what is and what is not;
I flow to reality that loving-kindness has brought.

Layer upon layer is removed from within,
And I arise for the day and truly begin.

When the Dharma Flows by L. B.

When the Dharma flows, the mind is pure and bright.
When the Dharma flows, the body is warm and light.
Karma bring many things, but the Dharma gives us knowing
And because of this, we will not miss its special over-flowing.

Incarcerated people

Many incarcerated people from all over the United States correspond with Venerable Thubten Chodron and monastics from Sravasti Abbey. They offer great insights into how they are applying the Dharma and striving to be of benefit to themselves and others in even the most difficult of situations.