A dilapidated open door leads from a dark interior to a yard.
Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Today I was asked by another prisoner “Are you rehabilitated?”
I told him “I know I am!”
He said “What have you learned?”

I’ve learned that when I’m on the phone with my daughter,
it feels like my heart is in my ear.
I’ve learned that for some, escape is easier through an open wrist
than an open door.
I’ve learned that opened jugular veins don’t have exit signs.
I’ve learned hopes and dreams can drown and die in coagulated blood puddles
if they can’t swim.

I’ve learned that death sentences can occur with silent ticks of a clock, rather than a lethal shot of poison.
I’ve learned my nightmares occur when I’m awake and peace is in my sleep.
I’ve learned that blue lipstick is a terrible color for lips.

I’ve learned that sheets are used for more than mattresses.
I’ve learned the sound of keys can create post-traumatic stress.
I’ve learned toothbrushes can be the object of someone else’s aggression,
and they can pierce a heart —
Right after they brush their teeth, of course.

I’ve learned when I cry thinking about my family, my tears are never salty.
I’ve learned some of my gray hairs are rear view mirrors for how I never want to live my life again.
I’ve learned zoos aren’t just for animals.
I’ve learned that those zoo animals probably miss their friends and families too.

I’ve learned a stick of gum can be a luxury.
I’ve learned tombs can contain the living.
I’ve learned when the chaplain shows up at my door he’s escorting death.
I’ve learned my victims include people “outside” of my crime.

I’ve learned handcuffs come in one size fits all.
I’ve learned looking out of a rectangular window for 23 years doesn’t stop me from believing the world is still round.
I’ve learned drugs can find their way into prison without G.P.S. or a map.

I’ve learned birds make beautiful music, without practice.
I’ve learned none of the guards paid much attention to their mothers when they told them to “Stop slamming the door!”

I’ve learned that bars can stop bodies but not visions.
I’ve learned zombies really are existent and are dangerous in close proximity.
I’ve learned that mail makes my eyes happy.
I’ve learned steel bunks are a practice run for the morgue.
I’ve learned coffee is ruined with sugar and cream.
I’ve learned algebra, trigonometry, angles, percent’s, parallelograms and 3 languages.

I’ve learned listening to voices outside of your head is just as dangerous as listening to the ones inside your head when they’re delusional.
I’ve learned justice has nothing to do with courts, constitutions or laws but solely the universal energy we absorb or radiate.
I’ve learned that top ramen soups taste like steak compared to prison food.

I’ve learned some of the guards’ moral compasses end where the cameras end.
I’ve learned that my moral compass never had a magnetic field of love.
I’ve learned insanity constantly stalks and chases me like I’m a fugitive and my sanity must fight to the death when cornered.
I’ve learned chains of the mind are just as bad as the chains on your ankles.

I’ve learned women are beautiful.
I’ve learned women are beautiful reminders.
I’ve learned women are beautiful reminders of freedom.

Then I told the other prisoner “that’s what I’ve learned brotha.”
He said “Is that it?”
I said “Oh yeah, I forgot, remember I told you about those animals in the zoo?”
He said “Yeah.”
I said “I’ve learned that if I’m going to be treated like an animal, then I want a beautiful fur coat too.”

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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Safi Dona't

Safi Dona't is a writer incarcerated in Colorado.