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Photo by Samara Doole on Unsplash

There comes a point
Where we need to stop
pulling people out of
the river. We need to go
upstream and find out why they’re
falling in.

At first I’m drenched,
then submerged
in water that renders
me contemptible.
The waters are cold
and full of jagged stones
conspicuous in material
yet inextricable
as they pull me with the
river’s fluidity, the toxicity.

I’m swimming,
but I can’ breathe.
So I’m gasping.

I can feel my heart beat
and my lungs
filling with water!
I’m tumbling up stream.
I can’t breathe,
‘cause I’m getting beat
by police
and my loved ones are
I can’t scream
because I can’t breathe
So I’m grasping!
I miss my homies,
the corpses
floating in the streets;
and those washed up in the
For lack of education and
lack of perspective.
So they’re destined
for submersion
and this pain
turns into anger.

I bottle it up
until it turns to rage.

I can’t find the strength
To break free
like I’m caged.
This feeling is ingrained
in my brain
by these floods that
that translates
To over-packed
and early graves!
I can’t breathe!

The remaining
air is tight
and getting tighter,
so I fight to swim
to the top of these waters
but I keep going under
until I’m washed up
on the shore of a penitentiary!
And now I can breathe.

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.

Peter Sierra is a writer who is determined to change his life, provide a voice to the voiceless and address issues around incarceration. He has published a poetry book called “Walking Metaphors,” and he’s currently working on a novel about incarceration. He is incarcerated in California.