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“It was falling into the dream as I was coming out.”

George Seferis

my self-isolating
family no longer visits me. we must keep everyone
at arm’s length — flatten the curve
of yearning for connection. we must strap on masks
before exiting our cells; many of us shelter in place
instead. we flinch away
from those who cough or sneeze.
the consequences of getting sick is a constant
topic of conversation. everybody knows the terms
medical and attention only cohabit our sentences
in prison like loveless marriages. we disguise the few
cleaning chemicals we get, filling Mello Yello’s steady
green bottles with blue window cleaner, pink floor soap,
clear disinfectant: they become
contraband if inside our cells. camouflaged amid our sodas
we try not to accidentally drink them again. we stockpile
ramen, coffee, batteries, soap, and stamps as money
from our families dries up. i could last perhaps
two months. mail takes longer and longer to reach us. weeks
sometimes. if pressed most of us would admit to feeling
increasingly lonely,
abandoned, forgotten, nevertheless
we check the news all day, praying not to recognize the names of people victimized while buying toilet paper.

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.

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George T. Wilkerson

George T. Wilkerson is a writer incarcerated on death row in North Carolina.