Prison Poetry Reading

When we arrived
they took our shoelaces.
But they gave them back
after the reading. Something about
weaponizing shoelaces. Nothing
about weaponizing poetry.
An inmate played the violin
as we filed in and took our seats,
then one by one we read our poems
to the inmates and the inmates
read their poems to us. You could
tell the guards didn't like poetry.
The poetry was a kind of
punishment for the guards,
a kind of escape for the inmates
who walked right out of there
in the poems, barefoot and twirling
the shoelaces, skipping and holding hands
with the guards, telling the truth,
not the whole truth but
lots of tricky emotional truths
which you can only

Paul Hostovsky's latest book of poems is Mostly (FutureCycle Press, 2021). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. paulhostovsky.com

See more of Paul's work in 10.4 and 1.1

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