Poem of the Week: “Ghazal,” by Reginald Dwayne Betts

Photo by izhar khan on Pexels.com

We hope you’ll join us on September 23 as we welcome Reginald Dwayne Betts for two virtual appearances. Please visit our Events page for details.


Name a song that tells a man what to expect after prison;

Explains Occam’s razor: you’re still a suspect after prison.


Titus Kaphar painted my portrait, then dipped it in black tar.

He knows redaction is a dialect after prison.


From inside a cell, the night sky isn’t the measure—

that’s why it’s prison’s vastness your eyes reflect after prison.


My lover don’t believe in my sadness. She says whisky,

not time, is what left me wrecked after prison.


Ruth, Papermaker, take these tattered gray sweats.

Make paper of my bid: a past I won’t reject after prison.


The state murdered Kalief with a single high bail.

Always innocent. Did he fear time’s effect after prison?


Dear Warden, my time been served, let me go,

Promise that some of this I won’t recollect—after prison.


My mother has died. My father, a brother & two cousins.

There is no G-d; no reason to genuflect, after prison.


Jeremy and Forest rejected the template, said for

it to be funky, the font must redact after prison.


He came home saying righteous, coochie, & jive turkey.

All them lost years, his slang’s architect after prison.


The Printer silkscreens a world onto black paper.

With ink, Erik reveals what we neglect after prison.


My homeboy say he’s done with all that prison shit.

His wife & baby girl gave him love to protect after prison.


Them fools say you can become anything when it’s over.

Told ’em straight up, ain’t nothing to resurrect after prison.


You have come so far, Beloved, & for what, another song?

Then sing. Shahid you’re loved, not shipwrecked, after prison.


©2019 by Reginald Dwayne Betts, from Felon, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY


Published by cpoetrymsu

The Center for Poetry opened in the fall of 2007 to encourage the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry and to create an awareness of the place and power of poetry in our everyday lives. We think about this in a number of ways, including through readings, shows, community outreach, and workshops. We are at work building a poetry community at MSU and in the greater Lansing area. Contact: cpoetry@msu.edu (517) 884-1932 http://www.poetry.rcah.msu.edu

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