Wisps of white smoke float against a black background
Photo by Pascal Meier on Unsplash

What happens when your plans don’t go your way?
when you’re hoping for a yes, and no is what they say
Does the sun stop shining or the world stop spinning?
Can you keep believing when the opposition is winning?
Do you hold your head up when pressure won’t let up?
Do you keep your peace when your patience is fed up?
What if what you see is not your reality —
instead of being a fighter, you’re the casualty
Can you make it to your feet after suffering defeat?
Do you stop the journey when you know it’s not complete,
when pain is unrelenting, and your plane is descending,
when happiness is a mask, and you’re tired of pretending
Do you make another fire when hanging by a wire?
Does the unexpected flood extinguish your desire?
Where’s your guiding light when lost in the night,
that calming little voice that’ll tell you, “It’s alright”
Does what other people see match the image that you show?
Do you burn the bad seeds, or do you let ’em grow?
What about the inner you; when adversity takes a hold?
Does your energy project, or do efforts turn to mold?
When wheels stop turning, do you stay determined,
will that fire deep inside you continue to keep burning?
When the anguish runs high and tears crease your eye,
do you fall on your sword and keep pushing till you die?
That decision is yours, though criticism makes it harder
Do you give in to submission, or become another martyr
Sacrifice, sacrifice, you smoking dreams in your pipe,
so fill your empty lungs, let the smoke change your life

Poet’s Note

Shortly before I wrote this poem, I suffered a heart attack, my fourth since being incarcerated. I stood before the parole board, and they denied me freedom that day, and it was more than I could bear. I had done everything that they asked of me. I took classes, kept my behavior under control, and respected the staff and officers. I’ve been the model inmate since day one even when I wanted to vent. The parole board talks a lot about accountability, but when the ball is in their court, the word is nowhere to be found.

The fight for freedom sometimes seems futile because you have an opposition who doesn’t believe that they can’t do no wrong and believes that you can’t do right. It feels like the light at the end of the tunnel may never come. But I will continue to write because this is the gift given to me.

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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Inervoyce

Inervoyce is a writer incarcerated in Missouri. He writes under a pseudonym.