SEEN is a prison portrait and poetry project. But more importantly, it’s a Minnesota portrait and poetry project. Through photography, video, and written word, we share the poignant brilliance of poets and prose writers in Minnesota state prisons, and work together to make the invisible visible, the unheard heard, and the unseen seen. Mass incarceration is dependent upon the ignoring and erasure of the human beings we cage. In collaboration with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (MPWW) and the thoughtful, intelligent, humble, and deeply gifted writers on the inside, WAAC challenges and disrupts mass incarceration by clearing the pathways for people behind bars to have their voices heard, faces seen, and humanity recognized–and for people on the outside to reckon with the inhumanity of our country’s mass incarceration mass disaster.
This page is dedicated to the work of Ronald b.k.a. Bino. For more poets and essayists, check out the SEEN page.
The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted
After Gil Scott-Heron
You will not be able to swipe left
You will not be able to butt dial or charge your phone
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip
Or skip out on a backlash of Trump tweets
Because, the revolution will not be tweeted
The revolution will not be streamed to you by Netflix
Roku, Hulu, Apple, or Microsoft’s X-Box
The revolution will not tweet you messages from Trump
Of how great the U.S. economy is or tweets of Jeff Sessions
Robert Mueller and Mike Pence smoking
Sour Diesel confiscated from a border-town sanctuary
The revolution will not be tweeted
The revolution might be streamed live through Facebook but
will not star Jennifer Lawrence, Idris Elba, or Iron Man and Pepper
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not give you bunny ears and a cute nose,
Because the revolution will not be Snapchatted either, Brother
There with will be no images of you and Odell Beckham
Pushing that cart down the block on the dead run
Or trying to slide a VR headset over your head in a stolen Prius
TMZ will not predict the winner at 4:32 or the crooked politicians from
The revolution will not be tweeted
There will be no tweets of the neighborhood watch shooting down
babies on the message board
There will be no tweets of Generation Y being
Run out of Harlem on a rail with their blonde dreads missing
There will be no Instagram images of
Ru Paul strolling through LA in a red, black and
Green liberation jumpsuit covered in sequence that they had been saving
For just the right occasion
E-Harmony, Amazon, and
Porn Hub will longer be so damned relevant
and people will not care when Michonne finally got down with
Rick on The Walking Dead because everyone
Will be marching in the streets looking for a brighter day
The revolution will not be tweeted
There will be not tweets of Breaking News on E! Entertainment Nightly
and no tweets of silicon bottomed women Liberationist or
Kim Kardashian blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Kanye West, Francis Scott Key
nor sung by Taylor Swift, Halsey, Miley Cyrus
Jay-Z, or Cardi B
The revolution will not be tweeted
The revolution will not be right back after you check your Instagram
About a pair of Louboutins, a Bentley, or a bad actor
You will not have to worry about a super-virus on your network
Russians hacking your data, or Mexicans doing your dirty work
The revolution will not go better with Red Bull
The revolution will not cure erectile dysfunction with a pill
The revolution WILL put you in the driver’s seat, but
The revolution will not be tweeted
WILL not be tweeted, WILL NOT BE TWEETED
The revolution will not be brought to you through social media, Brother
The revolution will be Live.
FIRE IN THE HOLE
Mirror-gazing reflective scab of a man.
Cliff-diving, tweety-bird burying, two-bit rascal.
Pack-mentality, tree-climbing, scoundrel in a brothel.
King of the mountain, fountain of youth searching,
parable of a person.
Who are you to be critical or our mental hospital,
when we created it. Come on, reach into this hole.
From your GI Joe’s hostile takeover of Barbie and Ken’s dollhouse.
From being a snake oil peddling door salesman with
nothing to offer; four Jokers in a deck of cards conniving con man.
From that Strychnine snortin, whip crackin, world crushin, hush money pushin,
prostitute wranglin, nightmare monster, creep in orange-face.
Back-flippin domestic terrorist. Soon to be dinosaur in an Apple Store.
You high-speed driving bad babysitter with a fifth of liquor.
Risk-taking conservative anomaly of a role model.
Two-gun toting deep thinker.
Reach into this hole and try to pull me out.
From flesh cracking miniature warheads.
From the savory taste of illegal success
and the phrase “he’s better off dead.”
From the rain-filled days. Racism’s maze.
From the downswing of a cynics verbal sickle
and being euthanized with euphemisms.
Like you save fond memories. You mirror-gazing conceited
vanity indulged Mohawk wearing duplicitous thing.
Unlearn my skewed facts and what I think a breaking point is.
Uncapture my mind from the fake sound of freedom ringing.
Unravel my thread from our line of misguided free will.
Death defying couch potato.
Flapping fish in a frying pan.
You ice cube in Arizona heat.
With the hope of a burning phoenix.
Evaporate into nothing.
Heartbeat of a tortoise.
Pace of a sloth.
You’re not ready to…
From the fate of an empty funeral and dry eulogy.
You unreligious man of the cloth.
Street priest with a faulty flock.
Bible reading heathen.
Calorie counting glutinous sin committing hog in a trough.
Reach into his hole and try to pull me out.
From being a love paraplegic.
From being emotionally crippled.
From being the bastard child of distorted lust.
From biological clocks ticking in reverse and Hallmark card confessions.
You reflective miscreant in the mirror.
Gremlin with a grenade.
Living in harmonious madness like
Tupac and Sebastian Bach riding in a Maybach.
From a dream deferred and the hues of discrimination,
and the labels of the nation of incarceration.
I’m not your inmate.
I’m not your offender.
I’m not your client.
I’m not your patient.
I’m not your reflection.
I am your reflection.
Now reach into this hole. Come on.
From dilapidated houses.
Smiles filled with potholes.
Darkened streets of disappearing adolescents.
From ignorance’s bliss,
and the voice in my head.
From my ego’s power trip.
I dare you,
reach down in this hole and try to pull me out.
This bed is unkempt
the sheets are ruffled
soiled through down
to the padded mattress.
Its corners crusted by children
covered in mud. Madness
and sin has stained it.
The box spring has loosened,
become kitty-wompus. Fissures
found in the hand me downs
from generation to generation.
It has not been disinfected,
steamed, or fluffed.
It has been pissed on,
bled on, and pressure
has made it buckle.
Bed bugs have embedded
themselves into the fabric
and rest is no longer an option.
needs to burn.
Magic Alley (an excerpt)
In a field next to Eddie’s crack house my grandfather and I planted and cultivated an urban garden. We fed the neighborhood with the produce from it. We gave lima beans, green peas, tomatoes, and turnip greens to church ladies, whose sons were dope dealers, and whose aunts and uncles were drug-addicts. In his own way, my grandfather worked his magic on those people. They guarded me from the wicked magic that should have consumed me. Mr. Ramsey’s boy is what they called me, as if I didn’t have my own name. Because of my grandfather’s magic, I was immune to the fate that befell the occupants of the alley.
I Hope I Die Beautiful,
not beautiful like a field
of flowers or the blooming of an amaryllis
Not like playful puppies
or kittens. Just beautiful
I was born beautiful—I think.
Beautiful moments have erupted
from my imagination’s peak of knowledge.
I attempted to cultivate meaning,
understanding, and compassion,
but failed in my attempts. I used logic
instead of abstractedness.
Possibly those were the times
I was ugly.
I’m happy I didn’t die during
those times. It has to be discomforting
to die ugly.
So I hope I die beautiful,
not like summer rain
or untouched snow or double stacked rainbows or a baby’s giggle.
Exactly like a baby’s giggle.
Walk out into the ocean.
When the water reaches your navel, lay flat.
Swim, until you are too far to return.
Excerpt from I’m Not Woke
In my thoughts, I traveled back to Belzoni, Mississippi and witnessed my great grandfather, Papa Chuck, experience his birth of a nation and perform his best Nat Turner impression. Behind him were the slain bodies of his two sons. In front of him stood two individuals with white hoods over their faces; fire in one hand, rope in the other. Papa Chuck stood there with a rifle in one hand and his obituary in the other, and underneath his feet the soil bled red.
I’ve read the 13th Amendment and Article 1 of the Constitution. I’ve counted 13 bars in my cell and 1 toilet. I figure that if I’m only 3/5ths of a person I should be allowed to serve 2/5ths less time in prison than a whole person. See, this all evil algebra that you can’t calculate from only being WOKE. You gotta be deep into it. You gotta be deeply immersed in this bag of tricks.
Excerpt from “Rant”
While I was conversating with a scholar I said the word conversating and they said to me, “You know that’s not a word.” I said “Yeah. That’s too bad.”
I was typing a poem in Microsoft office and used the word unhospitable, Microsoft placed a red squiggly line under it, informing me that unhospitable is not a word. I right clicked it and added it to my computer’s dictionary. Now it’s a word.
One day I was conversating with an intelligent thug and he assumed I mistakenly misused a word, which he took upon himself to correct me on. I said to him “People misuse the N-Word every day-all day.” But, then again, maybe they’re not misusing it at all.
On a different day while a group of intellects were conversating I referred to white people as Caucasians. They told me, “That’s a made up word.” I said, “All words are made up.”
There wasn’t much disagreement after that.
AN UNPOLISHED POET
I am society’s erasure. Every word of me has been omitted from the page.
My title has been deleted. I exist as a stress-pressed exclamation, tucked away, hidden in the corner.
A weaponized exclamation point. I emit disdain from the lexicographer.
Editors plant words on the page, they don’t know how to correct an erasure.
I assassinate their edits and become shredded pieces of poetic pulp.
I abuse the pulp, it collapses, the erased words never die.
A blank page of pulp is my story, read the white space. Bask in the statement that an exclamation point makes. In it is the greatest statement you will ever hear. What follows is barrage of adjectives and verbs.
I am a poet entangled in a riot of words.
Kleptomaniacal poets construct pilfered poems where the last line blackmails the first line, the middle becomes sodden with monosyllabic projectiles absconded from scoundrels.
The alphabet is sunken into my pores. I am particles of grammar school grammar.
I raise my hand, it contains a sickened alphabet. I lower it, it slams down wrong and slaps closure within line breaks and white space.
A word riot commences.
Merriam-Webster, Oxford, Random House, Black’s, and The American Heritage pummel me with their lexicon until I am helpless as a runaway slave in quicksand.
They force me to the bottom.
The bottom is full of iambic pentameters.
I toe deeper, deeper below the bottom, ten notches deeper, where I find religion. It is secured in a sarcophagus.
I knocked on its top.
It knocked back and said “Abracadabra, welcome to Babel.”
I opened the cradle and communication spilled out.
I disengaged religion’s witticism and spit Hocus-Pocus.
The word riot ends. I am once again, society’s erasure.
I am am poet entangled in an orgy of words. I penetrated purgatory’s playhouse and gave a orgasm to a vixen. Her name was Villanelle. I tongued kissed here. It was glib and apocalyptic. She repeated everything she said. My words were her words and we lulled each other to sleep and wrote in repetitive steps. We became a palindrome and lost our ends, we re-wrote history and she taught me the antiquities.
Thine divine wordship
please govern thy loquacity
evict from I thy false oration
inject thine person
hereto with alpha etymology
where not whisker of feline
nor dirge of soul shall saunter thee
from thine path
of vehement verbosity.
This poet is not laureate nor novice but rather unpolished smithereens compiled of diction, dictionaries, didactics, and dynamite.
I am an ode. My family consists of elegies and eulogies. They die on the paper.
Maniacal scribbles on fat of hand; memories I refuse to remember.
My teacher is lost nostalgia of grammar taught through swooping whack of wooden rulers.
Roses, are red.
Violets, are blue.
Oh mi a more I hope you recognize contemporary poets don’t like you.
I write the blues using deeply pressed shades of gray. It leaves the pulp with lacerations and the earth bruised.
I deplete the poem of conjunctives and adjunctives; bare the bones of the poem until the marrow is the only meat left to surp.
I am Abecedarian and will find a way to cheat the alphabet at Q, Z, or F or P.
I am society’s erasure.
The pastoral has left me grounded. I plod through knee-high grass. It wraps around my feet, holds me closer to the earth, leaves me stranded, sunken in quicksand.
Through the quicksand the hollow knocking from a sarcophagus calls for my company.
Oh mi a more. Go away before I override your sonnet, turn it to a love affair with a wolf in a bonnet or a black man darkening a comet or a stubby-toed hairy-footed ring chasing hobbit.
My words are mental murder, murta; omerta.
I will not kill my darlings instead I will end the poem with it: All erasures should be named Lorena Bobbitt.
Ferns don’t grow here
anymore than boys do.
So, what are you?
weed of society, a seed
from the tree of life,
a message from pre-histories,
or just some plant
like a fern
in a prison yard.
*written in response to the question: What were you thinking, looking out the window?
Excerpt from “It Evades Me”
The greatest emotion a man could ever have is a broken heart.
It is the only way to know that he has truly loved someone.
My heart has never been broken.
Not even in my dreams.
Not even when I listen to:
Midnight Love. Tender Love. For the Love of You. I Loves You Porgy.
I Just Called to Say I Love You. Love Should Have Brought You Home Tonight.
You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You. It’s a Thin Light Between Love and Hate.
Could You Be Loved? Everybody Loves Sunshine.
Boosie Love. Butta Love. Ghetto Love. Honey Love.
For the Love of Money. Hang On to Your Love.
D-Boyz Got Love for Me. Just Another Love TKO.
If I ever Fall in Love. Another Love TKO.
Farewell My Summer Love. The Love Below.
It evades me.
It won’t jump on me.
It knows I’m attached to a nuke;
if I throw it, it’ll slinky back.
Begin its countdown
It laughs at me.
I’m the donkey.
It’s the carrot.
A Macau, a smart-mouthed Parrot.
Ha-ha tricked you again—sucker.
Genie in a bottle with no wishes to give.
Love is mystical.
Missing in action.
Being missed is lovely.
“Excuse me, Missus Love, can you help me? I’m looking for RLG.” This is what I asked the lady at the Department of Love.
“No, I cannot help you,” she responded. “He is not on my dossier. In 1981 we mistakenly transferred him to the Lack of Affection Department and have not reconciled the error.”
As a dedicated member of Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and one of the participants of SEEN, I am ecstatic for the exposure our talents may receive: it lengthens and electrifies the volume of our voices. After all, no one should ever speak for a people when they have so much to say.
Justice can never be satisfied through muzzled voices.