Poetry Behind Bars

The following poems were written by individuals incarcerated in Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. Some of the authors are poetry and drama students from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) put on by Agustin Lira and Patricia Wells Solorzano. We invite you to receive with open hearts and minds the poetry of Jackie Aaron Henderson and Antonio Smith.

Here I Am

By Antonio Smith


Are you spirit or man?

Was it you in the poem

Footprints in the Sand?

Do you eat food,

Maybe drink water?

Is it true

You’re everyone’s father?

What was first

That you created?

And Adam and Eve,

How long had they dated?

Do you hear all prayers

Except mine?

As I pray for help confused and blind,

Do you call me when no one’s there?

Though I make mistakes

Can you feel how much I care?

This is my truth.

“With love” is no scam.

You R my heaven.

Here I am.


By Jackie Aaron Henderson (aka Kakamia Jahad Imarisha)

For the longest time I’ve wondered why.

Time ties crimes to the violent eyes of the urban name.

Ghetto games of run from the police. Grand dragons who try to make chief and pump their blood like their union, cowards who hide behind the blue and green wall,

As crimes against tenement tenants rise and the innocent, unarmed bodies of Oakland, New York, and Ferguson fall! (I can’t breath officer… Help!)

I refuse to love those who continue to oppose the tenacity of the rose that rose from the veins of blood tainted by the bite of those we fight, the venom of Babylon! Set fire to the wall, blue flames of Molotovs, time to set it off. Set for the occasion, no more oppression for the colored walls will fall by way of the blue steel, melted reels as TV cannot conceive why and how the wall bleeds… cause of death, suicide by hatred, self-loathing, and greed.

I smoke the smoke of AK’s and pepper spray canistas set fire to the hazmat suits and pull the pins of grenades packed by bad sistas. Open cell doors by way of force put shells on course with GPS, open Ad-Seg Units and strip the turn key of opportunity charged with mutiny and criminal conspiracy finally… no longer free is my enemy.

Your sentence, my lost years, mother’s tears, and internal fears… shot to your chest. No Teflon, no cover, no vest! We are held by concrete ‘til our feet beat the beat of war calls and the true cries of anarchy reign until our failures become our triumphs… until the tears of our freedom outweigh the tears of our pain. I will fight… mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically… Until!


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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