Inmate Poetry

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These poems were written by Illinois prison inmates and collected by Urbana Champaign Books to Prisoners. The Public i thanks Books to Prisoners for making them available. We will be publishing more inmate poetry in upcoming issues. For more information, go to <>.

(no title)
by RaKahna Latrice

I am the man Raisheme.
I am a man.
A nimbus soul.

I prayed for luck when I was death.
I pitched a penny wishing
on untolds.

O’ my God what have I done!
I’ve denied!
I broke our truce!
(A covenant bound to heaven.)
In all my doubt
I’ve doubted You.

I am the worm raisheme
I am a worm
latched upon a hook.

I tell you I’m a son of God—
You pretend I’m not a crook.


had I learned a newer language

by raisheme worlds

Had I learned a newer language—
Scarcely known the english one.
Had not understood my rhythm
For God’s wisdom is the sun.

Will not know the mass of oceans,
Nor seeth the mountain range.
My eyes whistle ungraceful ballets
For all I see is prison chains.

Can not comprehend my demise—
An enterprise I shall not know?
Although riches of quietus
My life has never shown.

There is purpose for my being
That my soul can’t bear to shame.
I curse the man that wishes death
As I wish myself the same.

I asked God, why do you hate me.
She responded, hate you why?
You should know you are my son,
I dwell in child,
not the sky.

Lord, should mother love me dearly . . .
Father left us long ago?
Nostalgia paints a picture
Of his presents wrapped in snow.

Son, all learned through misventure,
And through all your pains of grief
You should discover nothing new
Except what you used to be.

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