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About this poet

Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of Bastards of the Reagan Era (Four Way Books, 2015) and Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books, 2010), which won the 2010 Beatrice Hawley Award. He is the recipient of a 2019 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Betts was an Emerson Fellow at New America, and is a PhD candidate at Yale Law School. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Prison

Prison is the sinner’s bouquet, house of shredded & torn
               Dear John letters, upended grave of names, moon
               Black kiss of a pistol’s flat side, time blueborn
& threaded into a curse, Lazarus of hustlers, the picayune
Spinning into beatdowns; breath of a thief stilled
               By fluorescent lights, a system of 40 blocks,
               Empty vials, a hand full of purple cranesbills,
Memories of crates suspended from stairs, tied in knots
Around street lamps, the house of unending push-ups,
              Wheelbarrels & walking 20s, the daughters
              Chasing their father’s shadows, sons that upset
The wind with their secrets, the paraphrase of fractured,
              Scarred wings flying through smoke, each wild hour
              Of lockdown, hunger time & the blackened flower.

Copyright © 2010 by Reginald Dwayne Betts. From Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books, 2010). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2010 by Reginald Dwayne Betts. From Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books, 2010). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Reginald Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of Bastards of the Reagan Era (Four Way Books, 2015) and Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books, 2010), which won the 2010 Beatrice Hawley Award. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

by this poet

poem

The magazine on my lap talks
about milk. Tells me that in America,
every farmer lost money on
every cow, every day of every month
of the year. Imagine that? To wake
up and know you’re digging yourself
deeper into a hole you can’t see
out of, even as your hands are wet
with

2
poem
            after George Jackson

Because something else must belong to him,
More than these chains, these cuffs, these cells—
Something more than Hard Rock’s hurt,
More than remembrances of where men
Go mad with craving—corpuscle, epidermis,
Flesh, men buried in the whale of it, all of it,
Because the
poem
I come from the cracked hands of men who used
           the smoldering ends of blunts to blow shotguns,

men who arranged their lives around the mystery
           of the moon breaking a street corner in half.

I come from "Swann Road" written in a child's
           slanted block letters across a playground