Jason R., Iowa: Three Boxes

IOWA PRISON WRITING PROJECT


Three Boxes

JASON R., IOWA


Dark desolate walls, 
old prison, charming on the outside, 
Manicured lawns, flower gardens, all a deception. 
Inside jam-packed with hate and aggression, 
dreams disintegrate and fade out. These oppressive walls, 
suppress hope, 
      chew it up 
            spit back futility, 
                  dying souls inside. 
Locked in my cage, iron bars as doors, 
I gaze through bars to see outside my cage, 
witness beautiful small-town Iowa, 
intimate penitentiary sits inside the town. 
I am forced to witness others’ lives, playing with 
children, mowing the lawn, Sunday dinners 
with the family, the smell of barbeque on warm 
summer days. Convicts did not exist, townspeople 
tuned us out, imprisoned their minds, refused to acknowledge 
our faces, pretended six-story limestone cell houses 
did not exist, in their town, dominating the skyline, our lives 
remained inside the penitentiary, never leaving, even after I left, 
those sights 
      mocked me, 
            tortured my soul daily. 
Early one crisp spring morning, 
a correctional officer threw three small boxes, 
in front of my cage and said, 
“Ross pack your shit you’re transferring.” 
My heart beat fast, a tear fell from my eye. 
I have been in the penitentiary for seventeen years, 
what do I keep? What’s not box worthy? 
What must be thrown away in the trash, 
at the bottom of the stairs, as if personal objects 
never existed, birthday cards, letters from family, 
pictures, never appreciated again. 
What of my brothers still sleeping, 
that peaceful slumber, you know, 
the only time a convict exists free. 
As the bus pulled away from the 
faded walls of the penitentiary, I thought 
of my brothers, who would never leave, 
who one day would never wake up 
and finally be at peace. I left the penitentiary 
that day, but my soul stuck to the black grimy walls, 
that turn darker every year. 
The walls of oppression always grab you, 
hold you, and choke hope, out of you. 
No one escapes these walls unchanged.