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Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

Friends are hard to come by,
Harder still to find in prison.
Today, I walked another across the yard
To the gate which separate us
From the rest of the prison
And the rest of the world.

We knew this day was coming.
I work in the program office where
All transfer orders get processed.
This morning, I saw his name
Ramirez, C., Building 11, Cell 229
The little brother who has, for years
Walked the concrete with me, lap after lap
Around the prison track.

I got up from my desk and went outside,
Found him, told him what he already knew.
We had time to walk two laps,
Made plans to stay in touch.
He will parole this September, or next,
Or some September soon enough.

I am serving life without.
We both know what our parting means:
We will never see each other again in the flesh,
But we don’t speak about it, we talk a little shit
Like good brothers do, silently aware that we are
Dusting off old inside jokes for the last time.
They call his name over the loudspeaker.

It’s time.
We pull a beat-up, orange plastic cart between us,
It’s full of his boxed belongings
And things that don’t need to be said. It’s okay,
Our evasion speaks to the silence,
it’s all a part of serving life, part of my cosmic debt.

At the gate,
A first fist bump, a quick hug, no eye contact,
Surrender, helplessness, accepted sorrow.
“You take care man.”
“I will, you too.”
He walks off with the officers that will escort him,
And I head back to the solitude of my office.
At my desk, I weep, as quickly and quietly as I can
And write a poem about having to say goodbye.

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.

Michael Owens is a poet incarcerated at in California. Over the course of his incarceration he has grown from being a lost, angry youth to being a peer mentor and advocate of restorative justice. He is the author of numerous works, including the poetry collection, “The Way Back” (Random Lone Press).