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A tan, brown, and black snake is curled up
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Steps linked by diamond-back patterns
knots and rattles begin to unravel
this two-faced double-helix beast
constricting my ankles and wrists
binding them together as they hiss
venom of my choices, fangs of my actions strike down on me
infecting my humanity — hate, pain, trauma accumulating into agony
transforming this new personality
all the while distorting my reality — warped beliefs and mimicry
cold-blooded viper, welcome to the prison industry
the epitome of self-pity, bloody cruelty, and slithering conspiracies
malevolent forces, guardians of the night
Machiavellian convicts, I know that you’re right
indoctrinate me into this insidious way of life
at eighteen smiling that my destiny
had been decided by a thirteen-year-old 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.

Charley Lopez is a poet incarcerated in California.