In Solitary

Article 5: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”


— oOo —

In Solitary


dedicated to Albert Woodfox, a member of the Black Panther movement

who, of 43 years in a Louisiana prison, has spent 40 in solitary confinement

for a murder he says he did not commit .

I wake to dismal morning light,

Reflected bars criss-cross my well-tramped floor.

The minutes, hours and years in this my home of forty years –

a blur. I have melted into time

Marked only by the daily penciled lines crossed through by sevens,

The unchanging minutiae of the blemishes on my walls

No longer seen – my inner blemishes of more concern.

I have no human contact. Twenty-three hours each day

I’m locked within a cube, six by nine by twelve to be exact.

One hour a day I soak in the seasons:

The sticky heat, the chill and rain

And try to remember when once I splashed in puddles

And threw a stick for eager mutt,

Or fanned myself on shady porch, while radio played

And children laughed.

I tramp and tramp, tick hours away,

Wait and dare to hope I’ll hear the clink of locks no more;

Then I will choose the time to sit in solitary silence,

My unbolted door a gateway to the living world.

Three times they said they’d let me go.

Unwilling to release my tortured soul,

Three times they blocked that road.

Is it revenge or a quota to be filled?

Unbroken here I lie in my small cell,

And wait and wait.

Is this God’s will?

By Gabrielle Blair



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