Photo by Jakob Owens via Unsplash

So many damn layers in between
us. 

“YOU HAVE A PREPAID CALL FROM:
[George Wilkerson]
AN INMATE AT CENTRAL PRISON…”
a digital guard tells my mother, who
must PRESS 5 to accept it. How
can she ever accept my being
on death row?

“Hello?” I probe
the aether. “Hi!” says she’s delighted
at the same time her monotone is just
room temperature. Her cute Korean-tinted
English catalogs fresh mundanities: How it now
takes all day to rake away crunchy leaves, especially
since my siblings are too busy to visit, to help;
how fast her heart flutters when she texts
a man my age she’s never met; how
she laments her creaky knees and dying
vegetable garden.

Her voice lays
wrinkled palms on my chest
and the inside of me
aches then opens,
presses 5.

 
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.