This is the third contribution to our new, bi-weekly blog post featuring creative content made by currently or formerly incarcerated people! If you or someone you know is a currently or formerly incarcerated person with creative content to offer, please submit your materials to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be in touch! We'll share the content on social media and always give credit to the artist(s) involved. Any type of submission--whether stories, poems, illustrations, music, videos or something else--are welcome! Today, we're sharing a poem written by Reginald Dwayne Betts, a husband, father of two sons, poet and memoirist. Betts spent 8 years in prison and is now a PhD student at Yale Law School.
Your father watches the flecks add up.
He says the wind-blown dead insects
against the window conjure ghosts:
tossed dice, the South, and his regrets.
You’re driving north on roads that glow
with high beams searching night. You cuss
and think about the wheel’s curved bone
pressed on your palms. The hard callus
burns and you curse the time--eight years
these towns on green billboards were home--
Greensville, Nottoway, Sussex. Names
of prisons, dark restless tombstones.
Words swallow air between you two
as a Newport lights the car’s inside.
Your father has listened and now wants
to talk. He pauses to glare wild-eyed.
His voice is broken bottles, smoke,
flesh. He knows you burned his letters.
In the back, your younger brother sleeps
between your wife and child for hours.
Outside, a storm begins with rain.
Your father sips his third straight beer
and you remember prison’s night.
He never mentions love’s austere
and lonely offices. And now--
when your son wakes--what will you say
about fathers? What will you say
about a voice cuffed to mistakes?
This poem comes from the most recent of Betts' three books, Shahid Reads His Own Palm. To get a FREE copy of the book, stop by our office M-F, 10am - 4pm.