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Illustration by Logvinart on iStock

I dropped my pencil. Trance broken.
Sketches were left on the white sheets —
Incomplete, portraits with no eyes.
Houses with no roofs.

A heavy key clangs, cell chosen randomly.
Officers open the door. Pack of hyenas.
“Cell search, step out,” one says.
I step out on the tier. They make a mess.
Throwing all my sketches in the trash.
My food, my toiletry, everything.
My fire ignites.

10 minutes later, “Step back inside,”
Said the same officer.
“No, I wanna speak to a sergeant,” I said.
“You’re not speaking to no one.”
“Then I’m not moving.”
“Turn around — you deaf? Turn around!”
Then slammed me on the floor.

Disobeying a direct order, accused of assault.
They had reign, I had nothing.
Winning felt like losing. Dignity
Felt like 30 days in the hole.

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.

León Oliver is a writer incarcerated in California. It is the pen name for Michael Espinoza, who is the founder of Prison Prose Publishing and author of two poetry books.