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Goodnight Jail

Based on 'Goodnight Moon', the beloved 1947 bedtime classic.


This summer, Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown’s children’s classic, turned 75. This bedtime story has enchanted millions of kids and parents for generations. To mark the occasion, Inquest is publishing a reimagined version of this work by poet and activist El Jones, based on Brown’s original, which is included in the author’s forthcoming collection, Abolitionist Intimacies.

In a provincial jail there’s a little room
With a toilet and a sink and a smell of mildew

And a slit of a window with a sliver of the moon
And a radio on a shelf playing a tune

And a metal cot, and a metal slot
And a night that’s either too cold or too hot

And an officer in the spot by the stairs
And three more guards sitting in chairs

And the shadow of the laws that put people in there

And the eye of the camera watching you sitting
And a photocopied picture of your mother and children

And a heart with a hole for the loved ones you’re missing
And restless dreams where you wake up shivering

And a door with a lock, and a window with bars
And a corner of the sky showing just one star

And a comb, and a brush, and a toilet that won’t flush
And a guard on his rounds ordering hush

So good night room like a little tomb

Image: Sihang Cheng/Unsplash

Good night window barely showing the moon

Good night laws that aren’t changing soon
Good night radio, good night news

Good night cot, good night slot
Good night down in solitary, where the world forgot

Good night sheets tied up in a knot
Good night bad dreams and regretful thoughts
Good night clanging doors and the camera shot

Good night locks, good night clocks
Good night countdown to the day you get out of the box

Good night mildew, good night mould
Good night lights on all night down in the hole

Good night heart with its little hole
Good night heat, good night cold

Good night foam mattress, good night comb
Good night to the crumpled picture of home

Good night dripping sink and toilet that won’t flush
And good night to the officers ordering hush

Good night patrols, good night stare
Good night outside, goodnight air

Good night love, good night care
Good night prisoners everywhere.

Excerpted from Abolitionist Intimacies. Copyright © 2022 by El Jones. Reprinted with permission from Fernwood Publishing.

Header image: Jabez Samuel/Unsplash