Bitch, You’re In Prison

they said

bitch, you’re in prison

as if

this most salient of facts

jump-suited in sallowing orange

had, even for a moment

escaped my attention

in situation inescapable,

conferring status inhuman.


they snarled

bitch, you’re in prison

when I dared suggest,

with temerity

unbefitting caged station,

conversational decorum

contravening jailhouse crudity,

because after all

what do you expect here?


they scoffed

bitch, you’re in prison

when I longed

for scintillating discourse

or cerebral stimulation

in lieu of

drama-mongering gossip

and mind-numbing TV,

indicative that jello-brain

is indeed the goal.


they guffawed

bitch, you’re in prison

when I scribbled

angsted dreams

upon torn paper scraps

quilled with the clots

of my spurting soul,

mocking the futility

of artistic aspirations.


they assert

bitch, you’re in prison

social stratus

lower than dirt

on a slithering snake belly,

cessation of upward mobility

death of a worthwhile future

deadpanned fait accompli

Piper, if I May Have a Word?


before prison

I watched your show

binge watched even

who didn’t?

in the furor

was common ground

among disparate selves

racy and fast paced

it engendered empathy

for a diverse gang

national phenomenon

it captivated us all


black is a little black dress

versatile, all purpose or sexy

what does orange

have to do with that?

then there was real prison

I wore orange

for a year

jumpsuit ill suited

for feminine curves

or a sense of humanity

I didn’t meet hot women

(no one is hot in orange sack cloth

and ashes of abject humiliation)

or have dance parties

or great sex (or any sex)

my skin withered

from lack of affection


black is trendy and chic

slimming, for daywear and night

true, we wore orange 24/7

and I did lose weight


Did you really wear orange at all?

Feds wear khaki scrubs

those are haute couture

compared to orange


burnt smelling jumpsuits

everyone wants to wear black

it’s sexy in a bra

all business in a pencil skirt

orange is stigma in shapeless coveralls

no one bargain hunts those


in real prison

I was always scared

I cried (a lot)

I was so alone

I was miserable

I felt guilty if

I accidentally laughed

you referenced the misery

almost in an aside

unnecessary eyeliner on a model

it was the carb-laden

diet of my existence


I thought about you

and your story

in harsh reality

and how we might

have common ground

middle class professionals


so I read your book

searching for understanding

validation of experience

my search for affirmation

abandoned me

in a bittersweet desert

destined to find myself


I felt your empathy

desire not to judge

your compatriots

I appreciated that

I was impressed

by those sentiments

I scavenged what I could

well-schooled in prison survival

take what serves me

pretend I don’t see the rest

the disconnect arose

in the fun

you described

how you ran and shouted

like those women

I couldn’t stand

who acted like prison

was a street gang


who relished

the release from responsibility

that incarceration wrought

celebration of orange

is the color of abandonment

dereliction of duty

abdication of obligation


I longed for

my responsibilities

I fought the urge to

Bitch-slap women

who said jail

was a vacation

but then I would

have been sinking

to the level expected

of a felon

black could be the darkness

hidden inside us all

that we secret

even from ourselves



in my despair

I thought your survival

could light a torch

in the darkness

orange is not

the color of my torch

in black I hide

from demons and demonizing

 orange is neon shouting

my greatest private shame


I keep trying to understand

the title to your story

so many women

go to prison

were you capturing

the ubiquity

of our captivity?


I know you are a warrior

speaking out against the system

I just don’t understand

how you colored

your experience


I must have gone

to prison

with a different

set of crayons


No Pens in the Pen

in the middle of the uprising

all the inmates

in all the jails and prisons

picked up their shanks

stuck them


to the page

in the enormous

echoing silence

they spilled

the charcoaled baby oil


of their truths

authenticity authored


cell to cell

shackle and chain

up and down the range

and the wardens



the guards

issued the edict

“More shanks!

Incite a riot.

All this truth-telling

does not serve

our purpose.”


Madness Marching

verbs lockstep nouns

adjectives, adverbs pace

abandon drum majored file

columnize tingling brain/feet


phrases inexorably advance

army of garrulous ants

predatory foragers consume

white space and grey matter


metaphors stomp in jackboots

storm Kristallnacht palaces

crash coveted convention

smash sense and nonsense


syllables and syntax entrench

assault peace in barren fields

sacrifice reason in futile quest

in the never-quiet mental front

The Beginning

It felt like miscarriage.

 There was the requisite agony and attendant

gore – absent the maternal oxytocin glow. This being

erupted from her unbidden, extruding through

dry constricted orifices.

It wracked her – a clamped

down silent caterwauling black hole

wrenching her skinside in and curdling

the yolk of the skies.

This thing was a raw bloody

mangled mess, confounding hope of life.

Expecting putrefaction

it squirmed and whimpered

inexplicably birthed in desolate

Siberian confinement.

At the end of all that was known

she bore a poetess self

Little Red Bird of Strength and Courage


 Bunkie who christened her Phoenix

presaging a destiny reborn

frenetically effervescent sharer

of trauma and heartache

creative aspirations

concrete floored locked-in yoga hour

 eye-achingly orange couture

scented of incinerated hopes and charred futures

inhospitable steel toilet

songstress of heartrending renditions

canticling frigid life chapter

diva of haunting refrains

echo in incarcerated memory

sensitive soul with insatiable

appetite for self-destruction

torpedoed situational nexus

barring unbearable vulnerability

paths merged then diverged

Little Red Bird of Strength and Courage

wings unshackled

whirled away in heroin’s gale