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Prison Journalism Project Editorial Liaison Marcus Henderson wrote this poem at San Quentin State Prison as COVID-19 was sweeping through the prison in one of the worst outbreaks in the country.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword,
True — the pen can kill you in the name of penance
The pen can pen ideas and dogma as the ink runs dry
Or one can get ink on in the pen, telling life stories — while serving life sentences
Sentences created by the pen, subjecting the subject into its predicate as a predator by a predatory justice system
Using penmanship to journal my quest for freedom,
While being shipped from pen to pen documenting inequalities of penology
Pensive of my jail reality, reading lines of tragedies, searching the mystery of my childhood
Tears of non-fiction, paragraphs of resentments
Giving and seeking forgiveness — like the thunderous voice of God said, “Let it be written”
Caged in a dimension of non-existence
Penning my resistance to a narrative inconsistent with who I am
Fighting history — HIS STORY as it stands
But there’s no rewrites to what has already been
So from the pen — with this pen I will be the one who pens my second act

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.

Marcus "Wali" Henderson is the former editor-in-chief of San Quentin News, an award-winning newspaper published out of San Quentin State Prison in California, where he is incarcerated. He became a reporter the day he arrived at San Quentin.