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National Poetry Month: Brandon Callender

“Incarcerated Slavery” & “2 crack a smile”


Incarcerated Slavery

20,058 Asians, 60,144 Blacks and Browns, 4,223 Natives, and 88,731 whites.

Incarcerated numbers . . .
Incarcerated numbers
make it easy to count the truths.
The fabrication of negation,
as abolished 13.
To see Jim Crow, wearing blackface,
yoking the amendments
1865 in servitude.
Whipping the Constitution on its back,
putting chains on independency.
The illusion of autonomy,
forcing generations to their knees.
The cotton field
is replaced by walls of steel, 
crippled hands plucking free labor,
as article 16 bleeds grapes to raisins.
The incubus of this new Jim
Crows the lies of freedom,
toward the ears
of those caught in conspiracy’s snares,
of black laws and red lines,
agents designed
to keep slavery unconfined,
and alive and well.
Slavery IS alive and well,
broken-down shacks
to cells.
In graved, branded skins,
to institutional numeric populace,
the beginning of sins
has no end.
But alchemized to a version of multitude,
coops, clinks, cans, and pens.
That devalues human lives,
echo cries,
vibrating brick walls,
accumulating noises
in the form of voices
to BREAK down,
mass incarcerate-tion.
Slavery has a new body, form and face,
the makeover that mass incarcerates,
pilfering, sodomize, and rapes
to a climaxing pleasure.
Economical treasures,
that was buried in the work of the people.
If ALL is created equal,
then why does statistics say different?
Slavery IS incarceration,
but with the PARTICIPATION of the whole,
WE can make a difference.
We can make the difference.

Brandon Callender reading his poem “Incarcerated Slavery”

2 crack a smile

Do I love my life . . .
I don’t know.
But I know that it’ll get better one day
And some day
I’ll be free again,
me again,
and be placed on a road that I won’t stray.
I pray
for brighter things cause in the light of this
I know that it could always get dark again.
And that’s not based on opinion but experience,
Because the dark been present,
Since an adolescent
Got me hoping for a miracle over this spiritual interference.
Physical my appearance
is covered by a mask
that was passed
as my inheritance.
And I was sworn
that when it’s worn,
You won’t see me through the cracks of my smile . . .
That tells you I need help.
I call on God, 
but forgot his number when it was dialed.
So by myself,
I’ve been lost
But at what cost
Have my astray set me back miles.
And what day was the wrong turn taken
I lost my way.
Readying my life for heaven’s gates,
but found myself in hell.
Staring from inside of a cell
I YELL!! Out in a clearing
But nobody hears the echo of my voice
So I’m preparing to make a choice
That’s over bearing,
but what options do I have?
When my mistakes dictate the results of the future from my past,
so I step over the edge falling,
the impact of the crash.
I’m living and dying
as I’m laughing and crying.
Cause I see me again
As I’m free again.
I crack a smile,
that could be seen,
through the mask.

Brandon Callender reading his poem “2 crack a smile”

Brandon Callender is an accomplished Toastmaster who is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from the Emerson Prison Initiative program.

Image: Krakograff Textures/Unsplash