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Semantics! Semantics!
Semantics! The English
Language revels in semantics —
So we embrace in-depths, not
Cursory perspectives when
We use the English language.

The cliche: “Dead man walking” —
How does that factor in semantics?
Well, much in every way —
Because the word “dead” has
A myriad of connotations.

The death I am alluding to here
Is neither physical nor spiritual death.
You see, physical death is not the
Worst thing that can happen to us.
The worst thing that happens to us is
“Being dead” while we live,
I mean “being dead” on the inside
While still living.

The perils of incarceration has
Many venomous tentacles, and
The most lethal of them all is
Being dead on the inside
While still living. And the
Accompanying symptomatic
Manifestations: atrophy,
Indolence and catactonicity,
All collectively strangle the will to survive.

Indifference and procrastination
Also piggyback these symptomatic
Manifestations — and they drain
Us dry as hay as they strangle
Our will to survive.
Succumbing to its beck and call
is tantamount to zombeism —
Which equals planning to fail.
But fail we must not.

We must break free
Of the stranglehold.
We must do the time,
Not let the time do us.
There’s no other way out.
And remember that if
you don’t stand for something,
You’ll fall for anything.
So wake up from slumber,
Stand upright and talk clear.
Because zombies we are not,
But men whose loved ones
Are eagerly looking for our
Shadows to walk out
Through the main gate.

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.

Ewallor Ngaaje is a writer incarcerated in California.