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The future looks
bleak during dark mornings. I put pen to paper,
nose to book upwards of fifteen hours, watching capers
of those supposedly working in our favor. I savor
the imagination’s production of burning restaurant flavors
and hear tinkling glass; while I smell tear gas and blood
flowing to the rhythm of heavy boots, batons and metal slugs.

The sky is overcast with concrete and filibusters
for social reform to keep populations below muster.
My bed is lonely steel covered in vinyl, wool and mesh bags.

Hope dangles just out of reach as toes scrape concrete
and firsts still occur for people with a hundred fifty years complete.

I wonder if anyone notices the shade of dark mornings
where marginalized humans are assaulted with barked warnings
from police who fear for their lives.

My accusers expect me to take full responsibility
for lack of opportunity and call it accountability.
For freedom, I must take the thoughts of my oppressors,
make them my own, and make them sound fresher.
Meanwhile, thousands fall ill and dozens die
for want of physical distancing.
Wrists in a manacles or in a mattress suit singly made
for isolation where problems get buried like graves
without help
and nothing gets done to reduce this time or ease my mind…

I scribe long stanzas for dark mornings made darker
by politician up service and hatred designed by martyrs.
No one has to answer for infected bacon,
chicken , or beef, or placing bets on illness and death.

Don’t hold truck with swine, edible or otherwise, yet
I am begrudged walking up life’s steps unless
I stare a cop’s gun in the face for my next breath.

I write text
and cautionary tales to catch recognition whenever I represent
and can smell the spray paint of murals forgotten and spent
by hatemongers spoiled rotten by privilege and racism
fueled by false doctrines passed through lies and plagiarism
that are accepted as truth.
To break this conversation open, people have to be willing
to listen during dark mornings without any killing.
Art is the way. Art connects us to world issues misused
as ballistic missiles to rupture tissues socially abused.
My pen
twitches as my imagination grows and my patience wears thin.
My lyrical graffiti coats walls with pictures ignored
by bureaucrats who prefer we grocery shop at liquor stores.

I scribble my dreams in notebooks and build stories that teach
the disenfranchised about every single social contract breach,
and to put the powers-that-be on notice. My hope is
to help untie the world with each coordinated opus.
My focus is to write rhymes that bolster the hopeless
and nurture social orphans, the abandoned, the homeless.
We’ll pry open the blind eyes with truth come alive…

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.

George Coles-El is a poet, writer, graffiti artist and tutor. He writes under the pen name Mesro Dhu Rafa’a, which means “stand with the sun, master of the ascendants.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, he completed an anthology of writings called "Unsung Hero." He is incarcerated in California.