Photo by Edwin Hooper via Unsplash

AND THEN THE PANDEMIC BEGAN
and changed some things. first the prison

prohibited all visitors. now my family 
couldn’t visit even if they tried. next the prison

closed our barbershops, so many of us look like mangy savages.
then the prison issued uniform masks to us, flimsy black

fabric behind which we can relax
the veneers of indifference we’d kept flexed on our faces. 

to reward us for not rioting, the prison started playing
Movies from Netflix every day. then posed a memo

to warn us that any noncompliance with coronavirus
restrictions will be punished: to get too close

to anyone now is to pay a ten-dollar fine plus weeks in the hole.
the prison is enforcing — not just facilitating social isolation. 

to gauge the mandated spacing we may stand apart extending our arms toward each other. our fingers may not touch.

that’s six feet.
the right distance is as long as the grave is deep. 

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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George T. Wilkerson

George T. Wilkerson is a writer incarcerated on Death Row at Central Prison in North Carolina.