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Photo by  Ismael Paramo  on  Unsplash
Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash

Engaging in religion in a community,
the members act like they wrote the holy books.
They speak as if they own the religion,
that they have the right to enforce penalties for breaking religious rules.
If you don’t do all of the rituals, they say you are not a real one.
People in the community are easily accepted
and may be hiding some real shameful history,
and as such you just join yourself to disgraceful behavior.

Some have dual alliances that may lead to a conflict of interest:
one day may be forced to choose a side.
The congregation extends across the globe,
even to the ones who are now gone.

It is spiritual, mental, physical — but sometimes
the community is not in unity at all.
Backstabbing exists,
throwing rocks then hiding the hand.
You are told to talk the same way as the members,
Dress alike, and to be your brother’s keeper.
But the only one suitable to be the head of the community
is the creator of Heaven and Earth,
and not a man at all.
I’m not about to let no man dictate something
that is as intimately personal as my relationship
with the head of my religious community.

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.

Kenneth Moore is an African-American writer and poet. He is the author of the book “Subconscious Poetry” (available at and has had one of his poems published in the book “Silent Screams: Poems from Uncharted Territory” by Dr. Unique Shaw-Smith. He is incarcerated in California.