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So we repeat the head-nod-fist-bump-what-up-fam-
how-you-doin’ routine. As if anyone gives a shit.

Camaraderie’s rare in this vast necropolis. After all
who’s got time for others when their basic needs

ain’t being met? Feelings are luxuries of the living,
the poet. Funny I should say this, being a wellspring

in a desert, but these pages overflow with more night
than day, &, if I’m being honest, ink no longer drips

from my pen like saliva down a gemstar blade —
for what vessel could ever hold space? The Poet.

I’ve met a few on this bid: most of them smiled
deeply, upsetting the stereotype of the wordsmith

as a haunted soul without recourse to happiness.
God-awful actors who couldn’t pretend otherwise.

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.

P.M. Dunne is a PEN America Writing for Justice Fellow. Read his work at or see it performed on