The Death of Chilvary, Courtship, and Love at First Sight

I am a straight heterosexual man, who absolutely adores the company of a woman. Sadly, it’s been 16 long years since I’ve been able to have a normal conversation with one. 

 

This is not due to my lack of ability to hold a meaningful conversation, or because I loathe the mere thought of conversing with the opposite sex. 

 

This is due to my 25 year to life sentence. Yes, prison! The death of chivalry, courtship, and love at first sight. Something that only someone who’s incarcerated can know so well. 

 

When I was home, I was able to walk up to a woman and say, “hello, how are you? What’s your name?” and then have a conversation, and get to know the person. Get her number, go on a few dates, and build a friendship from there. You can’t do that in prison. The only woman here are correctional officers, nurses, and civilians…and you are not allowed to address them in an unofficial capacity. Even if the conversation is innocent, it can be perceived the wrong way, and you will end up getting a misbehavior report, or even worse, beat up and sent to solitary confinement. 

 

There is no holding the door for her, or simply doing something nice. Prisoners are being conditioned not to look at women. Conditioned not to have a natural response to the opposite sex. 

 

No eye contact, no verbal contact, and definitely no physical contact.

 

There are those fortune few who have wives, and girlfriends from their past who come to visit them, but that’s a very small percentage of the prison population. The majority of men here are alone, and doing time by themselves. 

 

I, myself, fear the social effect that not having a companion has on a person. After serving all of this time, will I be out of touch with reality, or will I be able to have a healthy relationship with a woman?

 

The physical and psychological condition that’s being implemented inside prison is unnatural. It’s not normal for a straight heterosexual man to not have any type of relationship, or communication with a woman.

 

Chivalry, courtship, and love at first, second, third or fourth sight should be encouraged. To have a section of any population that’s disconnected from normal, human behavior, is a detriment to society as a whole, and there are no winners in that situation. 

I can only hope that chivalry, courtship and love at first sight, hasn’t died inside of me. I would hate to have let prison steal the human side of me.  

Untitled

Prison is a reality where I'm from. Just as college is an expectation for those of a higher class, prison was an expectation for me. Sure you have people who have made it, but those are the fish that flopped out of the net. 

 

Let me explain. I see mass incarceration like this.

 

You have the fish - that's people like me. You have the bed, you have the boats, the market place and, of course, the sea. 

 

Now the fishermen jump upon their big metal boats and set out to sea. Once they reach a ripe destination, they drop their nets deep, deep, deep, into the sea, gathering all that they can. Then they push a button and the net slowly rises out of the water. Inside it... You guessed it: fish! The fish flip and flop and bounce to get free, but the net is designed to capture them not free them.

 

Once the fishermen capture their fill for the day, they take them to the market place where they can make money to fund the next expedition.

 

The net doesn't discriminate, oh no. So every once in a while it will capture a squid or two, and then it's up to the fisherman's discretion whether or not he wants to throw the squid back into the murky waters or see if anyone in the market place has a taste for calamari. 

 

When I see people like Oprah Winfrey or Maya Angelou, I see a fish who flopped out of the net. Mark Zimmerman is my example of a squid. 

 

Everyone in my family that has the same last name (aside from my little brother) have done time in prison. My mother was just released recently from a federal prison after doing 13 years. And yes, she is a repeat offender. She is fifty years old and working in a warehouse operating forklifts. She's just happy to be free. Or as free as you can be on parole.

 

I don't judge her. I love her even if she wasn't one of the lucky ones to flop out of the net. And I know she loves me.

To Live in Prison

To live in prison is to be treated inhumanely. 

To be treated inhumanely is to eat where you shit, to shit where you sleep, to sleep where for centuries another person like you and I did a bid. 

To do a bid is take my whole family and friends on a stressful, costly and selfish journey. 

To go on that journey might not be so damn bad if only I could return a changed man. 

To be a changed man would mean never forgetting the tears I shed inside a prison cell countless miles from home, as my family shed theirs in secret from me. 

 

To live in prison is to not only know my actions lead me to this place, but to take full responsibility for them. 

To live in prison is to force me to search within myself for the reason I was so full of hate, and wipe it from my soul's core. 

To live in prison is to be stigmatized a liar, a con-artist, a rapist, a murderer, a low life, regardless of the reasons that lead me here or what I've done to rehabilitate myself. 

To live in prison is to be a legitimate reason to rob the tax-payers of their money and have nothing to show for it, but a high recidivism rate. 

To live in prison is to be forgotten and not want to come into terms with the reality of it. 

To live in prison is to write poetry about my pain and struggles with the hope my words will touch your heart. 

To live in prison is to entertain the evil thought of suicide as the only escape route. 

To live in prison is to be housed behind a large wall with barbed-wire fences, high in the mountains, out of society's sight and mind. 

To live in prison is to wonder if one of the pine boxes made in industry has my DIN number on it. 

R.I.P. Music

Let me tell you what I miss on nights like this…

Caught up in the moment, forced to reminisce.

I miss you, music

Especially your…

There was something about the way it felt when we...

You and I made miracles.

Love, again, I'm missing you. 

That same love has me miserable. Sad songs are all I listen to.

Now it doesn't even feel right singing, 

 

    For every note makes me think of you.

 

In full color, I never loved another.

You were the only one, I was a faithful brotha. 

Trust was never an issue,

and between me and you - I put my life on hold for you. 

I fought the cold. Cooled the Sun.

 

                We became One.

 

You were like my Soul, immortal and forever with me...

Tomorrow seems so meaningless,

Since forever is simply a word that empties. 

Maybe I don't deserve your chorus. Your bridge. 

Your chords in A-minor - All of it.

I still desire to touch your keys. 

Admire your flawlessness.

I was angered when I caught you with another man.

 

            Still remember the awkwardness...

But to share you was my dream

    with the world that I had seen.

Until my dream became an obsession, and you became a need. 

I never had a passion so extreme.

Things are not always what they seem to be.

Being with you fed my ego indeed.

You could do no evil.

Every single lie you told me, I believed you. 

I once said, "If I was cut I would bleed you." 

Even if I was blind, 

I would see you in my mind.

Had me thinking I could never leave you or

 

                    I'd die.

 

But I'm alive too far away to reach...

Whether you were the jazz or the blues, 

R&B something smooth.

We made perfection. The perfect team.

We couldn't lose. You were perfect to me. When I heard the news,

That you had passed away,

 

            I was confused.

 

Needless to say, I thought it wasn't true. 

We were just together that same afternoon. 

When I lost my love for music

Something I'd thought I'd never lose.

 

                I still gained the blues.

Sketches of the Past

Night after night, I lie on my bed and stare at the small red light that flashes repeatedly, indicating the smoke alarm is working. It's in these hours of the night that every prisoner truly becomes himself, the time when the prison becomes so quiet you can hear the silent tears stream down the faces of the men.

 

I cry because everything that I have grown to hate with a deep passion reminds me of everything that I love. Everything in my cell is a reminder of the life and times I left behind. Though my cell is approximately a six by eight cage in size, it possesses the key that unlocks every emotion - every pleasant and painful memory within me.

 

The walls in my cell are a mint green or, rather, a dull green that used to be mint. Because the paint is peeling and chipped in a few places, I can see the colors that my cell once was - a tan cream color, then a smoky gray, followed by an orange, and, beneath that, a rusty steel.  

 

It's not the steel or the orange that bring back memories for me. It's the mint green and the cream beneath which makes me think of my mother.

 

It forces me to go back and visit the apartment that my mother, two brothers, grandma, uncles and I shared on 164th Street in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. I once again sit in the living room that I was raised in; the same living room where my uncle lay dead on the floor after a massive heart attack at age twenty. It's in this living room that my mother came up with its color scheme - hunter green and cream.

 

Our three piece living room set was hunter green. The walls in the apartment were egg shell white. The drapes were hunter. Everything color coordinated to the tee. My mother is the type of lady whose socks have to match her bag, her shirt, and her footwear. So it was only right that the parquet wooden floors complimented the color scheme she picked for the living room.

 

The floor in my cell is an imitation of Italian marble, brown, black, and gray, and cold all year round. Even in the summer when it's blazing hot, the floor is cold.

 

It reminds me of my younger years when I used to visit my aunt Gail. It was in her building on East Tremont where I first saw this floor. I remember because it's the same building that had flower pots on every level and always smelled as if you were walking through a hospital. It's in this building that I was in my first fire.

My mother, grandma, uncles, and I were in Aunt Gail's apartment. I remember my aunt was outside, buzzing the intercom from the lobby like a mad woman. My mother must have buzzed her in a hundred times. Every time, my aunt's voice came through the intercom it was choppy, as if she were a robot, programmed to talk with cotton in her mouth. No one could make out what she was trying to say. My aunt continued to buzz the intercom and we continued to buzz her in. 

 

"Something smells like its burning," my mother said, and I was sent to make sure nothing in the kitchen was on fire. I checked the stove and went back to the living room to reassure them. We all sat back down to watch TV, and I wondered why my aunt had stopped buzzing the intercom. 

 

Suddenly, we heard loud bangs from outside the front door. The banging got louder and louder, so my mother and I went to see what all the noise was about. As we opened the door, a cloud of thick dark smoke rushed the apartment. My eyes began to water, and I coughed uncontrollably as the dark smoke filled my lungs. My mother slammed the door and began yelling in panic. 

 

"Mommy, mommy the building is on fire" she screamed to my grandma.  "We have to get out."

 

My grandma got up and started to grab whatever she could. My uncles scrambled to find their clothes and I continued to cough.

 

Boom, boom, boom. This time the banging was on our door. "It's the Fire Department. It's a fire; you have to get out," the fireman screamed from the other side of the door. Boom, boom, boom. My mother opened the door and two firemen rushed the apartment, but not before the dark smoke assaulted my lungs once more.

 

The firemen moved my family and me safely out of the building. My aunt Gail hugged me when I got out. "Y'all didn't hear me say it was a fire," she asked as she squeezed me tighter. Smoke could still be seen coming from the building.

 

 

Now, I lie on my bed and watch the alarm blink, remembering that time on 164th Street. I lie on the kind of mat that you'll find on the floor in a dojo gym, the steel frame making it feel as if I'm lying on a bed of rocks. It's moments like this that make me long to once again lay next to my ex-wife in her soft bed; to feel her warmth that once welcomed me. To once again smell the Victoria Secret's "Love Spell" fragrance that she loves to wear; to hear the pattern of her breathing as she sleeps peacefully like a baby. 

 

Next to my bed is a stainless steel toilet connected to a sink. The toilet is so close to my bed that I can put my hand in the bowl while I lie down. Some prisoners use the toilet as a refrigerator. They wrap up their food, drinks or anything else they need to stay cool in plastic bags and place it in the toilet bowl because it's the only place that's constantly cool.

Not me - my mother would kill me if she found out I was eating food out of the toilet. 

 

One time, she smacked the shit out of me in public because she thought I was going to eat gum that had fallen on the ground. She had picked me up from school and we were a half a block away from our apartment when it dropped out of my mouth. I picked it up, hoping to do a fade away jump shot into the garbage can. 

 

Smack. The gum fell back to the ground. I held my face, trying to stop the sting. Tears streamed down my face. "That's nasty. Pick it up and throw it in the garbage," my mother said pointing to the garbage can in front of a bodega.

 

"I wasn't even gonna eat it," I cried as I picked up the gum and went to throw it in the garbage.

 

"Yes, you were."

 

I never thought nineteen years later I would look back at the time and find humor in it. I swear this cell brings laughter to all the things that once made my cry or made me embarrassed. In this cell, I cry for the people I'll never see again; I cry for the time that I'll never get to spend with my family; I cry for the future that I'm not sure I have; I cry because the only thing that I have to look forward to are the things of my past. It's my past that keeps me alive and motivated. It's the memories of every moment spent with loved ones that I wish to one day relive. Though this cell is my casket and I'm buried alive in time, this very cell reminds me that my life is of value and has a purpose.

C2-24B

275 cinderblocks make one C2-24B cell 

How do I know?

Cause 94A2927's compelled to count 'em well

Freedom' s 6 feet wide by 13 feet long 

How do I know?

Visited every hellish inch where I don't belong

 

Seven brutal bars lock this "Client" in

How do I know?

Tried squeezing my hard head, but steel won't bend

 

Arms stretch 25½ inches beyond DOCS bars 

How do I know?

Reach for dreams and stars, but didn't get far

 

My steel twin bunk' s a 9 by 3 feet hearse 

How do I know?

For 8,295 days I worried, cried and prayed

and slept through the hurt

 

260 puncture where I seethe and vent 

How do I know?

Counted every dust and web in every

hole I'm sent

 

2 vertical locks, 3 empty shelves inside 

How do I know?

Heard my echo whisper: "You're a hungry fella, 

Cause you're full of pride"

 

Have a 16-inch shelf storing 13 books 

How do I know?

Cause I gave'm all, but the Bible's the only book I took

Got a steel commode to expose piss and spit 

How do I know?

Cause my ass freezes each time I shit

 

Got a welded mirror on my wailing wall 

How do I know?

Cause I see scars when I stand tall

 

Three millimeter drain in my porcelain sink 

How do I know?

It's where mosquitoes hide and water stinks

 

C2-248's tunnel vision, no peripheral view

How do I know?

Cause people walk by me, like I'm an animal

in a zoo

 

Got a 5 step program for a tormented cage

How do I know?

"1-2-3-4-pivot, 1-2-3-4-pivot" to control my rage

 

There's a 31 by 20-inch desk at the foot of my cot 

How do I know?

Cause I'm typing this poem, hoping you'll see where I rot

Hopelessly Hades

(Twenty-four years ago, at the tender age of eighteen, I was taken from the Hood to Hades by Blue Devils in shades, where a judge sentenced me to life beneath my unmarked grave)

 

Every morning I awake to a cold, steel, claustrophobic, existence equivalent to the Public Housing bathroom I was raised in. Beyond bars and reinforced windows, lies a 40-foot concrete wall, concealing freedom and discouraging unfettered imagination. Armed watchtowers guard against escapism.

 

Each night, I lay on a narrow cot yearning for freedom. Learning wisdom is priceless wealth. Burning for justice as I witness innocence die. Hugging a pillowcase to muffle cries. Bedsheets damming waterfall tears, questioning why.

 

I am eager to embrace sleep and escape reality in whatever adventure dreams may take me. Even an occasional nightmare is a welcome reprieve from the hellish monotony I can't awaken from.

 

Any event, whether clemency, death, or Super Bowls, helps define time, while oppression is too omnipresent and eternal to spiritually climb in a lifetime. 

 

All I have is the Present to reveal my lifeline.

 

The photographs taped against my bedside wall are a daily reminder of loved ones I miss dearly. At times, I wonder if a blank space will erase torment or whether I'm simply too self-absorbed in self-pity to realize I'm not suffering alone. Love ones are doing time too.

 

I attempt to genuflect after reading Psalm 27, but question if God's listening to my prayers or letting me ramble so neighbors may question my mental health and orderlies can tranquilize faith.

 

I question whether to get out of bed or close my soft brown eyes instead, hoping to resume the dream I was compelled to leave when a Blue Devil banged on my gate, yelling "COUNT!"

 

I question the sense of trimming my hairline, shaving, or wearing the polo shirt my beloved aunt purchased, if I can't feel warm compliments by a woman to redeem my esteem to a sense of humanity.

I question my will to fight to live another day if each day is an attrition against life so difficult to endure and so easy to give up on today.

 

Welcome to my daily bout against depression.

 

Every day, I exit the sanctuary of my confines at my own peril. Return is uncertain, but met with a sigh of relief once the gate slams behind me. Only then can I claim a minor victory against adversity for maintaining dignity, self­-respect, and preserving my sanity. Wherever I go, through catacombs of lost souls and callus corridors, I fear to walk slow.  My smile is met by grim, intimidating stares found only in the horrors of Hades.

 

Social skills are euthanized, while hostility invades.

 

Polished steel-toe boots stand at ease to kick in teeth, sterilize genitals, and stomp consciousness. Indiscriminate hands clutch batons to bash intelligence, crack ribs, and maim lives. Handcuffs dangle from waistbands to subdue surrender, so brutality's justified for overseers to sanction and cover­-up.

 

Life is hopelessly vulnerable to unpredictable possibilities I'm powerless to. I may be slashed by a mentally ill while standing on a messhall line. A shiv may get tossed in my direction during a surprise search. Drugs may be planted during a routine pat-frisk. Gang assault by Blue Devils results in fabricated charges and unlimited solitary time.

 

Respectful behavior is cynically received. Reason is under siege. Fairness is considered humane and naive Rules are reinforced if broken by the offender, but manipulated by the enforcer. No fair hearings held. Just kangaroo courts to keep me shell-shocked in cells. Violence painfully haunts the inner-peace I struggle to preserve.

 

My homogenous attire cries for expression. To be addressed respectably as Mr. Pedro Rosario. Not distinguished by 94A2927, scars, or tattoos. But for the right to be judged for the contents of my character. To be commended on my quest for redemption by America. Not tormented for perceived mistakes we're all conceived to make. But admired for redefining myself in a positive light.

 

I often wonder what would man do if God revealed the truth: that man wrongly condemned an innocent man to Hades?

 

Would I be resurrected to freedom or buried in my unmarked grave?

Three Encounters and a Warning

FIRST ENCOUNTER

One evening, while playing handball, a skinny, Caucasian kid, with a cute, front-tooth gap asked if he could play me next. He wasn't very good, and I sensed he wasn't there for handball. I asked him why he was looking anxious. Things poured out. He said he was going home in eight days. I excitedly asked about his future plans, and he told me he "hoped to get a job." I was dumbfounded and, as more details emerged, livid. He was gay, kicked out at 14 by his parents. He experienced homelessness, drug addiction and prostitution. He came to prison for burglaries at 18. At 21, he is going to live in a shelter and "hope" to find a job. He had fallen through the cracks. He took the required transitional programs, but had no contacts for a reentry program. In the minutes before we were locked back in our cages, he shared his love of poetry. I made him promise to go straight to the public library when he got out to ask about reentry programs and getting into college. The next day, I sent a follow­-up note. The day after, he was placed in protective custody when a frisk revealed a can top he was carrying to protect himself from reprisals from the Muslim community after a sexual encounter with a Muslim was exposed.

 

SECOND ENCOUNTER

She reminded me of a heavier Janet Jackson. A beautiful smile below a gorgeous forehead and above a large set of breasts. She was going home in less than seven months. Naturally, I asked about post-release plans and, naturally, she didn't have any except a hope to share a friend's apartment. When asked about reentry programs and employment, she said they didn't sit right with her because they gave trans people a hard time. As we walked, I noticed she attracted a lot of attention. On one hand, she was objectified because of her femininity and breasts. On the other, she was degraded with cutting glances and remarks. She confided she didn't want to prostitute anymore, that it made her feel bad about herself. I never got a chance to ask what she would love to do with her life and how to make it happen. A banger (weapon) was found in her cell after she was accused of having sex with a blood (gang) member. She was sent to the box.

 

THIRD ENCOUNTER

He blended in perfectly with the other Muslims. We spoke in college courses. We tutored him and the Amir (head of the incarcerated Muslim community) twice in physics. One day, the Amir told me his brother, since transferred to another prison, gave up his faith to have a relationship with another man. It was a scandalous revelation. After the Amir died from cancer, his friend was transferred back. In a rare moment of semi-privacy, he confided he was gay, that he liked me, and was desperate to talk about his experience and future. Shifting his kufi, he said he couldn't reconcile his faith and his sexuality. Though depressed, he felt suppressing things was best. I offered an answer for people similarly challenged, a solution to help. He laughed as I started running and he went to join his Muslim brothers.

WARNING

I was asked to work in Transitional Services. I loved the program. I was privileged to assist gay and transgendered clients. There wasn't a lot of reentry information for LGBTQ people. Being proactive, I wrote 20 LGBTQ organizations for help with setting up a prison chapter and information on reentry resources. The mailroom flagged the open, postage paid envelopes and sent them to the Dep. Supt. for Programs. He had my supervisor issue a misbehavior report and had me removed from the job. I was disciplined - fined

$10.00 for misusing state property (paper), $5.00 for the hearing, given seven days keep-lock, and lost honor block housing. The envelopes were then cleared to be mailed out. Go figure. 

"I Can't Breathe"

These are the last words of Eric Garner, a black man who died on a white, Staten Island sidewalk. I know this because I witnessed his death on news networks over and over again.

 

Before Mr. Garner was surrounded, tackled, held in a choke hold, had his head mashed into the sidewalk and became invisible to law enforcement and paramedics, I was struck by his words. "Leave me alone! I'm not going with you!" he yelled with his open hands up in the air. I know about the frustration he was expressing. I found it underneath the sadness of watching a man die and powerless to do anything but cry. Its name was fear.

 

As a person who is incarcerated, I experience this moment while going through security check points in prison.

 

A security check point has a magnetometer with security staff directing people through the machine in single file lines. Usually, when one has passed the scrutiny of the magnetometer, they continue following the line to the next area. You hope for this outcome. When you hear the words, "Get on the wall!" your heart sinks. These areas are invisible and dangerous, but you learn how to handle them. My face goes blank as I go through the motions of nodding at the officer, placing anything in my state pants on the table and assume the position. I hate myself that I go through the motions so effortlessly. With my hands firmly on the wall, I only slightly step backwards. No matter how far you step back, the officer’s script will demand “Step back!" Once I had an OJT (On the Job Training) officer who was intent on have me step back until it seemed I would be parallel with the floor. As my hands were sliding down the wall, an area sergeant came over and pointed out to the OJT what was happening. Lucky me. 

 

Everyone knows that if your hands move, the officer is granted license to assault you. Other rules include: don't look up, down, right or left; when the frisk is over, stand facing the wall with your hands in your pockets. Violating any of these can lead to a severe outcome. If the officer is in a bad mood, I’ll make him tell me twice to get my things, just to be sure there are no misunderstandings.

 

Unfortunately, I learned to be a master of the security check the hard way. The first prison I was sent to, I found myself getting frisked. Because I was last in line, there were six officers in the area watching. The guy searching me seemed to be about my age. He reminded me of my older cousin. The officer frisking me made a comment, but I couldn't make it out. Confusion rolled across my face. An officer to my left commented on the expression. "He thinks this is funny." It was only natural that my face registered a sense of high alert and disbelief that I was being talked about. Another comment followed: “He thinks you are a joke!" 

No more face reading. I found my face being slammed into the wall. My arms were wrenched behind me before I was handcuffed. I was directed through the long halls and found myself inside of a Sergeant's office. I was stripped naked. It's an odd dance where you have to keep your hands on the wall and remove articles of clothing with one hand while being threatened if the other one comes off the wall. Naked, I endured body shots and verbal abuse. I had heard rumors that bodies had been discovered in the basement and out on the prison's property. My reality was that I was going to die and never have the opportunity to repair my relationship with my family. The powerlessness struck deep. Back in my cell, I looked myself over with the small, funhouse mirror and only noticed a small bruise under my left eye.

 

What had I done? What had Eric Garner done? We were surrounded by people who had all the power in the world (as far as we were concerned). Why the escalation? 

 

I believe we were somehow being perceived as undermining their authority. If memory serves me correctly the Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrated how authority could shape personality. In this experiment, male, college students were randomly assigned to two groups: prisoner or guard. Almost immediately, the men who put on the uniform costume began acting strange. Their demand for immediate control went far beyond what was needed. It wasn't long before authority became a sick and perverted virus that transformed the young college men into sadists. 

 

It was the same thing with the Abu Graib prison in Iraq. Their physical bodies were tortured, their emotions taxed and their spirituality demeaned. Once photos were leaked, people were upset by what they witnessed. One detail that grabbed my attention was the occupation of a service member. He was a corrections officer. 

 

I am suspicious that, with no oversight, Abu Graib gets played out time and again. I've assisted men who have been badly assaulted and they know the reality of how far authority without accountability can go. It is a culture that supports this mind set. This culture denies wrongdoing and delays the serious attempts to challenge those denials. This culture allows deep manipulation of others. If an officer is seen as being too fair or nice to an inmate, a fellow officer only has to rein him in with the taunt of "inmate lover." People will do a lot of strange things to satisfy the criteria of unbridled authority, to be seen as in control.

 

This culture allows for a group of officers to hear Eric Gamer's statement, "leave me alone!" or see an expression of confusion on an inmate's face and use it shore up any doubts about their authority rather than ensure justice or security.

The Art of Punishment 

Governor Pataki, a three term governor, was tough on crime. He brought back the death penalty and influenced law enforcement and the parole board to crack down on criminals. That meant keeping people in prison for a very long time. That meant building two new prisons whose design of having everything in the cell (a shower, a door leading to a recreation cage in the back of the cell, a table, and a chair) would fulfill the desire of many officers to hold prisoners in a cage for twenty-three hours a day. After Governor Pataki left office, Governor Spitzer took over. He was going to be smart on crime, but he was also a bully to the Republicans. It wasn't long before he was discovered with a prostitute in Washington D.C. and retired in disgrace. His Lt. Governor Patterson, disclosed drug use and marital infidelity before taking office. When Governor Cuomo took office he took note in his first State of the State that some of the prisons were basically empty, but still being used to employ correctional staff. He called this workfare and announced his plan to close prisons.

 

His plan created a frenzy of people who thought his plan was preposterous - even in the face of declining arrest rates. One of the main critics of his plan was the officer's union (NYSCOPBA). For the first time I witnessed a commercial that had a radio counterpart. In the ad, I saw a young, white, virile man in the costume of a Corrections Officer walk down a prison tier. You could only see the front of the cell gates, not    inside of the prison cell itself. Were they empty? The message was simple, "WE are the only thing between YOU and THEM!" 

 

I meditated on this advertisement. It seemed pretty simple. Recalling Robert Greene's "The Art of Seduction", I knew that anyone could create a marketing campaign. If I took any object, put it in a room filled with beautiful women all laughing, I could make you associate that object with desire and happiness. If you were lonely, it might stick. Corrections was playing on a different emotion: fear. All of the pieces were there. WE (Corrections), YOU (Society, anyone with a voter registration sitting at home or in a car) and THEM (us, the prisoners) were all connected. The power of the imagination concerning THEM didn't dawn on me until later. I was looking on the inside out. I knew a lot of good people: People who were remorseful, people who had survived really bad living conditions, people who died, people who kept their humanity and reached out to help others. But what if you were on the outside looking in?

 

Let me pause here to ask you to do a quick brain game. You are in a room. The only way to get out of the room is to choose one of three doors. Behind the first door is a room full of ninjas. Behind the second is a huge lion that hasn't eaten in thirty days and the third door opens to a raging fire. Which did you choose? Did you feel your amygdala scratching your fear instinct? This exercise demonstrates that I didn't have to describe what was behind each door to you. Your imagination fills in the blanks with amazing clarity. If we had thought about this predicament, we would have chosen the lion who hasn't eaten in thirty days and is dead.

The advertisement is creating the opportunity to connect fear with "THEM" - the invisible people behind the gates that you never see. What did you see? Did you see the rapist, murderer, robber? You see your worst fear. 

 

On an even more subtle level, it is interesting to consider that the one of the few things our society places in cages are animals. And what do they say about animals? A leopard never changes its spots. So "THEM" hints at your worst fear - animals and something incapable of change. That's powerful. When I saw this level of possibility in the advertisement, I realized why the ad was played over and over and over. Corrections was seducing the population into believing it was the only answer to crime and criminals. The total institution of prison easily perpetuates an attitude that sees the people within its clutches as a bunch of animals. This attitude is leveraged by fear that keeps people held captive by shame and keeps the money pouring in.

 

I am not an animal. I have changed. I am your friend. 

The Art of Punishment 

Governor Pataki, a three term governor, was tough on crime. He brought back the death penalty and influenced law enforcement and the parole board to crack down on criminals. That meant keeping people in prison for a very long time. That meant building two new prisons whose design of having everything in the cell (a shower, a door leading to a recreation cage in the back of the cell, a table, and a chair) would fulfill the desire of many officers to hold prisoners in a cage for twenty-three hours a day. After Governor Pataki left office, Governor Spitzer took over. He was going to be smart on crime, but he was also a bully to the Republicans. It wasn't long before he was discovered with a prostitute in Washington D.C. and retired in disgrace. His Lt. Governor Patterson, disclosed drug use and marital infidelity before taking office. When Governor Cuomo took office he took note in his first State of the State that some of the prisons were basically empty, but still being used to employ correctional staff. He called this workfare and announced his plan to close prisons.

 

His plan created a frenzy of people who thought his plan was preposterous - even in the face of declining arrest rates. One of the main critics of his plan was the officer's union (NYSCOPBA). For the first time I witnessed a commercial that had a radio counterpart. In the ad, I saw a young, white, virile man in the costume of a Corrections Officer walk down a prison tier. You could only see the front of the cell gates, not    inside of the prison cell itself. Were they empty? The message was simple, "WE are the only thing between YOU and THEM!" 

 

I meditated on this advertisement. It seemed pretty simple. Recalling Robert Greene's "The Art of Seduction", I knew that anyone could create a marketing campaign. If I took any object, put it in a room filled with beautiful women all laughing, I could make you associate that object with desire and happiness. If you were lonely, it might stick. Corrections was playing on a different emotion: fear. All of the pieces were there. WE (Corrections), YOU (Society, anyone with a voter registration sitting at home or in a car) and THEM (us, the prisoners) were all connected. The power of the imagination concerning THEM didn't dawn on me until later. I was looking on the inside out. I knew a lot of good people: People who were remorseful, people who had survived really bad living conditions, people who died, people who kept their humanity and reached out to help others. But what if you were on the outside looking in?

 

Let me pause here to ask you to do a quick brain game. You are in a room. The only way to get out of the room is to choose one of three doors. Behind the first door is a room full of ninjas. Behind the second is a huge lion that hasn't eaten in thirty days and the third door opens to a raging fire. Which did you choose? Did you feel your amygdala scratching your fear instinct? This exercise demonstrates that I didn't have to describe what was behind each door to you. Your imagination fills in the blanks with amazing clarity. If we had thought about this predicament, we would have chosen the lion who hasn't eaten in thirty days and is dead.

The advertisement is creating the opportunity to connect fear with "THEM" - the invisible people behind the gates that you never see. What did you see? Did you see the rapist, murderer, robber? You see your worst fear. 

 

On an even more subtle level, it is interesting to consider that the one of the few things our society places in cages are animals. And what do they say about animals? A leopard never changes its spots. So "THEM" hints at your worst fear - animals and something incapable of change. That's powerful. When I saw this level of possibility in the advertisement, I realized why the ad was played over and over and over. Corrections was seducing the population into believing it was the only answer to crime and criminals. The total institution of prison easily perpetuates an attitude that sees the people within its clutches as a bunch of animals. This attitude is leveraged by fear that keeps people held captive by shame and keeps the money pouring in.

 

I am not an animal. I have changed. I am your friend. 

BLEEDING DAKOTA

R. L. Williams

Trump gave a directive to the Department of the Army, the Army corps of Engineers, to go ahead… to drill under the river… we intend to fight it all the way.

- Chas Iron Eyes, Native Revolutionary

 

Uncle Sam's brightly savage stripes slapping vein-pipes

Into crust for S's impaled with parallel perpendiculars

 

Caring a-stroud-of-small-pox about Native Americans

Burial grounds or the hiliarity of non-violent Pow Wows

 

Pow Wow if they like, Black-gold Trumps ancestral plots

And warrior-attempts to stop petroleum cash-cow flows

 

Makes security go-good-ole-boy John Wayne: Pow! Pow!

Dakota needs a touriquet she's bloodied by Fascism's

 

Immanent -Doemain


T H E   P I T S

R.L. WILLIAMS

 

Using the toes of my Adidas

Inside Clinton's recreational yard

I carefully sketched happiness

In pale sand which drinks African blood

Mother Earth is now smiling up at Father Sky

All because I sketched happy-sand

I can't wait to leave this place

So I can give it two middle fingers

While wearing the biggest smiley face ever

HAVE A NICE F****** DAY

PRINCE SHABAZ

My world exploded when I was sentenced by the Judge

Yes after thirty years I will be prejudged

 

Universally people make mistakes and get a second chance

Parole Commissioners make their decisions way in advance

Can this be legal, to resentence me

On my way to my fourth board, denied the last three

Magic, Voodoo, what about a crystal ball

I was told they see my future, so they made a judgement call

No oversight, so they do as they please

Given more power than the Justice of the Peace

 

Perhaps I should be quiet and rot in jail

And watch the white’s get parole before they are frail

Racist, how does that play a part

Observed by someone that’s not my counterpart

Leniency for a Blackman doing tie

Erie, Billy, Tom, Dick and Harry committed the same crime

PRINCE SHABAZ

I am a faucet and my contents are devoured

 

Always making sure what I spill is not sour

My goal is to keep strong and nourish your body

 

Allowing you to grow and be somebody

 

Forgive those who may try to break you down

A lot of their brains are list ghost towns

Understand what my purpose is to do

Call on a higher power to see me through

Everyone I meet, bestow on them my lifeline

Truly the gift is what comes out of my pipeline

PRINCE SHABAZ
 

For the family I never met, but my crime affect

Openly I’m sorry for taking your prospect

Respectfully I ask your forgiveness for my selfish act

Growing up I was taught better than that

I blame no one but me

Vision was cloudy when I tried to flee

Emergency, emergency flashing through my head

 

My friend been shot, oh my God bloodshed

Echoes of him screaming from the backseat

 

Fussing and cussing my heart is racing offbeat

Out with my friend at a house party

Robbers yelling and shooting, it’s a war party

 

The limit was 60, I was way above

Hospital I seek, tough love

Emotions running off the chart

 

Panic setting in, please don’t depart

Anger then tears start to flow

I spent the night smoking weed and sniffing blow

No one to blame because I got behind the wheel

 

I was denied entry to the Court of Appeal

 

Cultivate myself into a thinking man

Ages apart from where it all began

Unfinished in the person I wish to be

Sending my condolences and deepest apology

Every night I pray to be forgave

Denouncing the way I once behaved

My people bang and tell to get out of their cells

Years of incarceration, some not doing too well

 

Ceilings, floors and walls of concrete and steel

Enclosed, boxed in, the demons seem so  real

Life unbalanced, through the legal system some fight for a break

Long hours and years without  hope, turning to drugs to escape

 

Another man is beaten, so bad he lost his sight

No one to blame, because blue is always right

Did you hear the screams, so loud it jarred a nerve

 

I did along with  the  racist slurs used like verbs

 

A system claiming to support rehabilitation

Racism by large on the new plantation

Express what it  really is, depopulation

 

 

Blacks facing parole, Signs of Broken System in New York

Eliminate the hope of a people that are deemed distraught

Sounds like madness, where did I get this thought

The New York Times December 5, 2016 report

 

Far too many stories I hear people tell

Remember the brother that died in the stairwell

I’m focused on freedom and escaping  this hell

Ending nights of misery and years away

No one can stop me from the joy of that day

Don’t call be crazy because I befriend my call

Society is where I need to be to excel