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Photo credit: NASA

At 17,500 MPH astronaut Scott Kelly
rides the International Space Station.
In lockdown I read his words
“Endurance,” his book.
Prison, like the space station
is hermetic
What kills the astronaut is the cold vacuum of space
What kills the inmate are the guns of the perimeter guards.
Kelly says space has the smell of burnt metal.
Prison smells of concrete and sweat
In lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic
endurance is psychological.
Will the virus get in?
350 men in this space vehicle traveling at 0 MPH.
The virus would feast
on our biology.
On the phone my wife asks, is the virus a sentient being?
It endures, is my reply
multiplies, hungry to replicate
but knows nothing
cares nothing for our humanity
our sins, our good deeds.
Leaving lockdown
will be like passing through an airlock
into the earth-bound module, to descend
to crash-burn through the atmosphere
no fear
what is outside
but those lives left behind?
Like Scott Kelly, enduring, surrounded by technology
not a pilot but a passenger
as are we all, prisoners
here in the lockdown
sheltering in place

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Fernando Rivas Martinez is writer and prison reform advocate incarcerated in Texas. He is a 1977 Juilliard graduate and award-winning composer of film and television music. In 2016, while incarcerated, he received an honorable mention from the PEN America prison writing program for his poem "300 Min." In 2019 he won the American Short Fiction Insider’s Prize award and an honorable mention on the Texas Observer short story contest.