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A tent is pitched among trees for a summer camping trip.
Illustration by Anna Grayson

Squashed memories of a treasured realm I once frequented

    nights sleeping in a canoe floating down
    the Mighty Miss surviving on Veggie Rice,
    BugJuice, and Mac & Cheese 23 portages
    in the same exhausting day in the
    BWCA smoking Swisher Sweets while drowning worms
    on a fishing line eating real frog
    legs and redneck sushi the ever present
    leeches, mosquitoes and black flies my faithful
    Bailey with her own red canine-sized saddlebags
    using blue tarps & raised paddles to
    sail canoe flotillas across Big Sandy Lake
    hearing the loons wailing their mournful goodbyes
    to the sun stumbling alone along a
    woodland trail at night in a raging
    thunderstorm whitecaps, windy weather and canoes flipping
    in Voyageurs National Park rope swings and
    lost boat engines waking up in my
    primitive lean-to with a wild raccoon on
    my chest playing capture the flag between
    two islands chilly nights with long johns
    and lotsa Hot Cocoa sharing goofy shaggy-dog
    stories around campfire embers watching morning fog
    silently burn off the perfectly still lake

The last 7 years I’ve been locked in a cage like a wild animal,
but I still dream of those wild, magical summers in the woods.

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.

Matthew Feeney is a writer and poet who has won awards from PEN America and the League of Minnesota Poets. Feeney's writing has appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Analog Sea Review, The Pinyon Review, and Evening Street Review. Three of his poems were performed live at the 2019 World Voices Festival in New York City. Feeney is incarcerated in Minnesota.