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Prison Is …

Prison is like a fiery furnace
Where the mettle of a man’s soul
Is either refined or consumed,
And the quality of a man’s character
Determines the kind of “metal” he possesses.
Rare are these souls of platinum, gold or even silver.
But tin, aluminum, and copper far outnumber iron and steel.
I myself am steel, steadily mixing with gold,
As I endeavor to be a better man than yesterday,
And if I don’t make it,
It won’t be because I didn’t try.

Death Row

I got a homie on death row.
He was accused and convicted of a murder/robbery.
He’s been on the row fifteen years.
The clock is now ticking and his time is running out.
Sometimes I think of how it would be if I were on death row.
How would I do my time there?
I would stay to myself for the most part.
I would do a lot of reading and a lot of working out.
Working out would seem futile because I’m condemned. A dead man walking.
I guess I’d just end up a physically fit corpse.
Would I let my teenage daughter come to see me?
Why not — I’m living in my last days.
But what would I tell her when she asks what went wrong?
Should I blame my ordeal on a racist so-called “justice” system?
Should I downplay my own role in my situation?
I do know that I wouldn’t lie to her.
And when my number came up, and they asked me what I want for my last meal,
I would be like, “What?! You clowns are about to murder me, and you expect me
to have an appetite?! All right — bring me some gumbo, banana pudding
and a cherry Coke.”
And when the goon squad comes, led by a prison chaplain,
Administering last tires with total indifference in his eyes,
Would I take him seriously?
Should I repent?
And when they break out the shackles and chains,
Should I go out peacefully or the “hard way”?
I would like to think that I’d go with my head up and my back straight.
And after I’m strapped down, with I.V.s in my arms to pump poison into me,
Would I have any last words?
Should I say something funny like, “Kids, don’t try this at home!”
Should I say something venomous like, “Fuck all y’all! I’ll see you all in hell!”
Should I be Christlike and say, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what
they do.”
Would I back down and cry out, “I don’t wanna die!”
Maybe my mouth would become so dry that it would become sealed shut,
And silence is all I could produce.
Yea, the homie’s on death row, and all I can do for him is pray …

 
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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Aaron McCoy

Aaron McCoy is a writer, journalist and a children’s author. He has been incarcerated for 35 years in California.