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And I promise you
that I will fight
as hard for those who
did not support me
as for those who did.

Sir, I live.
My heart knocks on
the cell bars sporadically,
I splatter the walls
with the paint of my soul.
There is no amount of showers,
no amount of soap,
that I will allow
to wash away my hope.

Give me cold food,
and I’ll set it on fire
with the flames of my imagination.
Deprive indigent prisoners of
hygiene products.
I promise, not even
COVID can stop us.
If torture has an enemy
it has met its match!

Solitary confinement can
separate but never sever
the tethers that tie me
to my family’s memory.

Concerned clouds gather in
the name of dark places
the days officers are
lazy enough to take me
out this cell for fresh air.
I watch the faces of my loved ones
labor across the sky,
and as they cry,
I know it is a rain of pride.

I’ve worked from 12 am to 6 am.
Nonstop.
Quite certain that when
the hallway light turns on,
the harassment will begin.
The officer will hand me
the same styrofoam tray
with the old crusty cereal
for the 365th day.
But today
I will hand him this poem.

I’ve seen them
keep my brothas from
speaking to their mothers
and their childrens’ mothers.
I’ve heard silent spirits
desperately dealing with death
in the depths of solitude.

I’ve seen this place
devour light like black holes,
but I hear the smiles on
my brothas’ faces,
I hear the beauty
of their vibrations,
I see our light
as it twirls and swirls
out and away from the center
of this black hole.

Sometimes I turn on music
to keep the cruelty at bay.
I enjoy being present
so it is never to escape
but only to synchronize
the rhythms in my mind
to love.

I’ve seen officers steal
prisoners’ most cherished pictures.
Grandparents, children, fathers, sisters.
The ultimatum:
“Let us abuse you,
consent to being disrespected
or your property will vanish.”
Shading the shadows
of our existence.

I’ve hated it, debated it,
but prisoners are not books
you cannot bind their covers
you cannot give them spines.

I’ve opened books, boarded trains
and rode them into the tunnels
of my brain.
I’ve waved goodbye to sanity,
passed through Insanity Station
and smoked a blunt filled
with stress and chains.

I remember seeing
one of my billboards and
it said “If you
fight as hard for those
who do not support you
as for those who do,
then you missed your stop
at Insanity Station, because
that was the place for you.”

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.

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Sabir Shabazz

Sabir Shabazz is a poet incarcerated in Colorado. He finds it difficult to imagine fighting harder for anyone more than the people who have loved and supported him during the almost ten years that he has been in solitary confinement.