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Prison Poems

Art Appreciation 101

Picture prison sex as art
Blood, semen, shit
Smeared across a canvas of degradation
Rape slaves are sold for cigarettes
Trapped in their chains of weakness
Their failing manhood
Hidden behind homemade hotpants
& shaved skinny legs

Isn’t it easy to fall in love?

Suppose it’s madness that drives atrocity
Every man is begotten by his father
Every man’s father is Cain
Do men do unto themselves?
What man wishes to be an animal?

Cages breed animals

Beaten, bloody, dead
For words – gestures
Casual bumps & glances
Knives flash, crimes of passion
Knife wounds & screams
Nightmares & fear
& a coward who fails to overcome his fear
The easiest way to appear strong
Is to exploit the weak


Still life

Sunday morning in Cell-Block One
I can feel the oppression
When the cellhouse grows quiet
& only state-issued brogans
Send their lonely little messages
To those who are not listening
Little messages aimed at no one
& nowhere...
Down the hall –
Where the television echoes nothing
At all the stone walls and stone faces
Of all the nobodies
As they dream their little gray dreams
Of all that has been wasted
We are a living still life
But ... it’s still life
To me
Because of a technocolor dream
Of two
You & I were they
It reminded me of opium
That dream
I remember well
A dream from heaven
I will tell
Though dreamt here in this pit of hell
There were dreamy kisses at midnight
I remember the flavor of moonlight on your lips
The feel of the leather skirt that hugged your hips
When our lips met I knew the rapture of a feather’s fall
In that kiss – I knew it all
With that brush of a butterfly wing
I came to know everything
The dulcet melody in the song of birds –
To the painful inadequacy of human words
Some things are better left unsaid –
You said


Going under for the last time

It can befool
Just a shallow pool
We may call tomorrow
& Sadness
That’s a deep emotion
Deep as any ocean
Anchor lines of memories
Hold us fast – in the past
Murky depths
Hidden obstacles
Ropes & chains that snag & pull
Hold me under to drown
Just below the surface of today
That hateful hurtful NOW
That I see only while gulping air
Gasping & choking
As the memories
Try to pull me under
Choke me with the clarity of hindsight
I go under again
I would rather drown
Than see the NOW
Black flower

Look inside the dark blossom 
Of the black flower of civilized society
That Hawthorne wrote about so long ago
That's what you'll find me

The vilest seeds of poison deeds
Get planted in prison's lair
And what is sterling in a man
Is what tarnishes there

Guns and guards, they watch the gate
My warden is despair
I'll break down the gate with my burning hate
And get away from here

Then, where there's guns and blood
Bullets flying through the air
Look behind the telescopic sight
And you'll find me there

Where a crack smoking mom is trying to beat and break her vice
Or a hungry new born baby cries
Look into their beseeching eyes
And you'll find me there

Where a man rises up to fight against tyranny
In a battle to stay free
Look behind the barricade
And that's where you'll find me

Where a man fights and dies
--- the world is not fair ---
Look into his cold dead eyes
You'll surely find me there.


The nose knows

Though its usually the vilest seeds of poison deeds
That get planted in prison's lair
There is a different variety of seed 
That may too get planted there

While the stench of the Black Flower
Clings to those who dwell
Within the fenced in confines 
Of this State-owned hell

There are some who see it not
Nor even catch a whiff
And you my Dawg, are one of these
Diane.....if -- if only if.....

We're not here just to wag our tails
Your pedigree is far better
And though I happen to be on a short leash
You ignore the fetter

Real gifts:
Kindness and care.....
And simple understanding.....
These are the different variety of seeds
That you've been busy planting.

I came -- I saw -- I conquered 

The mirror breaks
Shattered self
Glass cuts 
Like nothing else

Blood and tears reflect my strife
And I am turning cold
My tortured life's an evil wife
I have to have and hold

Married to myself again
I filed for suicide
The courts rejected everything
My motion was denied

No escape
Nowhere to run
I push and shove
And conquer love.....

But no one understands

It's a beautiful morning 

Shiny surgical steel honed to the perfection of a razor's edge
Severing veins and tendons below the track marks
Then falling to the cold hard tiles of the bathroom floor
Cold and living on

The source of this end to a means
Lies reflecting all that blood
And brand new sunlight that God keeps throwing
Into your cocaine eye
At 6:00 in the morning on a sunny summer Sunday

The beauty of this day just making you seem so much
Than you really are

Look at your bloody wrist
Through the haze of
Rage tears
Hurt tears
Hate the self tears
In your eyes
And ask yourself...
NO -- not why --
NEVER why...
You ask yourself if you should have tried your neck
This is taking far 
And so few stories..... that are true..... have happy endings

Going down for the last time 

It can befool
Just a shallow pool
We may call tomorrow

That's a deep emotion
Deep as any ocean
Anchor lines of memories
Hold me fast -- In the past

Murky depths
Hidden obstacles
Ropes and chains that snag and pull
Hold me under to drown
Just below the surface of.......Today .....The NOW 
That hateful, hurtful now
That I see only while gulping air
Gasping and choking
As the memories try to pull me under
Choke me with the clarity of hindsight 
I go under again
I would rather drown
Than see TODAY

In God's image 

Feel these mortal wounds -- I sigh
Forgiveness in the suicide
On the threshold of a world untried
Throw away my pain and pride

I am now my own saviour
With my sharp razor
It's cold and hard and shows no favour
It isn't flinching from forever
On my knees -- it's now or never

I kneel to pray to - sweet - god - Razorblade
Look at me -- I'm in god's image
Reflected by the shiny blade
Where viscous drops of blood now glisten

Suck my soul father Gillette ----My new god
I'm still here on my knees
As my head begins to nod
I hear my Father's pleas

Remember son, remember
The ego's oh so tender
None can look upon my face and live
Embrace my face that won't forgive

Bleed, just to bleed
Like leeches shrivel 
When they die


You light up my life

On the horizon I spied a spark
A tiny glimmer in the dark
On my horizon there was a gleam
I was black -- thus unseen by you
But I was on your horizon 

The calendar marked some time
You were so far
A small pin-prick of light
.....A distant star
It made me phosphorescent
A reciprocal light of my own
That glared at my dark resentment

I saw you in periphery
From the corner of my eye
You'd grown so large......
Now -- a firefly!

A few years passed --
Of those I have no lack
I glanced again and was blinded by
The burning flash of your lightening's crack.....
A burst of light
That was so bright
It illuminated forever my perpetual night
To see you close
You getting near
I don't know why.....
It caused me fear
'Cause you were there and I'd always be HERE?

Spoken words know but a moment's life
And then they're gone again --
So I choose to speak to you
With my pen.....

I love you as I've never loved before
Everything you do is always good
You're beautiful beyond compare
You have an inner beauty
And strength
That rivals Joan of Arc
Industrious and tenacity
The ability to truly SEE
A huge capacity for sympathy

I hold your friendship oh so dear
My pen has spoken so that you might hear
I love you Diane
.....And everything about you
I hope I've made it clear.


God created the world --- then she let me be her friend

It's quite uncommon I suppose
For the gods in their repose
To allow us mortals to get close
To their station up above
Us mortals call this closeness -- Love

It's impossible for my soul
To store immense emotion untold
Within my meagre little heart
It's force would rip my heart apart

The ant can't see the mountain
But by your fortuitous gift 
Of closeness
You did shift
The examen on which my world sits
And now I'm able to see the stars

I could write eternally
Of the ways of things I see
But then the duty of the prose
Would go derelict and cease more to disclose
So, I will leave it here
With just a few more words to make it clear

I pray that as you read you find
Within the metre of this rhyme
That for me your friendship is sublime
That I do not worship an unseen and unheard god
That my Goddess is in all that I do
That my goddess Diane -- is you

It's you and me baby -- a pondering

I was in prison and ye came unto me,
Let patience have her perfect work.

Maybe you're all I need
to comfort me when the nightmares come
Like a devil caught up in maelstrom
I'm a dust devil in the wind...
You're my driving force
Are you my gale force sin?

I'll find my answers, but only when
I'm in your arms, wrapped so tight
When I come unraveled in the night
When I need to run and cannot hide
When I find you there whenever I....
Whenever I Scream...
Because of you 


 Joe R. Hopkins













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