by Shazell Robinson-Hardy


Poetry, Heard/Alexandria Detention Center writing contest, July 2022

No sleep! Interrupted by the sounds of jiggling keys,

That’s every quarter on a clock that you can’t even see,

Try to read, but the story in that book is not what you need,

Get up hopeful to a breakfast tray that you can’t eat,

With fake meat, make up your bed real neat,

Or you will get written up on a violation sheet,

And get locked down for the rest of the week,

Every morning is on repeat,

Breakfast, 7 lockdown, 11 lunch 12 noon,

The baloney, turkey and the salami don’t all smell like food,

Just hold your breath and chew cuz this is jail,

And after you swallow you can exhale,

You gon spend most of your days inside your cell,

And you better make it to the TV first,

Get up for your meds when you hear the nurse,

Don’t curse, Things could be worse,

You could be riding in the back of a hearse,

Or already in the dirt,

When you’re wearing your gym shorts you gotta have on

your green t-shirt,

Don’t forget to clean the shower,

Rec is only for 1 hour,

On Thursdays and Saturdays you can shave,

But the razor only has one blade,

And “There will be no extra trays!”

Count your days and your nights,

Everybody on the outside’s money gon be tight,

They gon tell you “This time when do you get out you gotta get it right!”

You gon get a keep separate if you like to fight,

A couple more changes,

Holidays be the hardest,

Know how to greet your sergeants &lieutenants,

Arguments with them you just cannot win em,

Then there’s dinner,

You definitely will be going home thinner,

Starts at 5 and is over at 5:45 but a lot of it can not

be identified, just know it won’t be fried,

Don’t cry,

You only here to do your time, and pay for your crime,

Of course, we’re all innocent,

If anybody breaks a rule you did not witness it,

Cuz you ain’t no snitch,

Nobody here is loyal and they all gon switch,

Always think bigger and be wiser,

Most of your fellow inmates are compulsive liars,

Half of the staff should’ve been fired or never hired,

And a lot of em needa to go ahead and retire,

But you’re an inmate so it’s best to keep quiet,

They already got you on a HIGH CARB DIET without your consent,

Pray daily and remember to repent, because it’s all a test,

If you need anything you have to fill out a request,

Get accepted in a program then go and do your best,

Wait all week for commissary,

Now you gotta pay for your visits,

You still gon pay, even if they miss it,

The nurse come in after midnight just to give you a physical,

No sleep! Disrespectful!

If you doing hair don’t let them catch you,

When you need mental health they gotta put you on their schedule,

And hopefully your charges ain’t federal ’cause the prosecutors

gonna paint you as the devil,

Even though the judge ain’t kind, he can lock up your body

but never your mind, they can’t keep you here forever,

Lockdown is at 11,

Repeat at 7.