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Maryland State Correctional Facility for Women,
Baltimore County Branch, has undergone a facelift.
Cells are white and un-graffitied, room-like, surprisingly airy.
This is where I must spend the next year, eating slop from tin trays,
facing women much tougher than I am, finding out if I am brave.
Though I do not know what I took, I know I took something.
On Exercise Day, walk the streets of the city you grew up in,
in my case, D.C., from pillar to post, Adams-Morgan to Anacostia,
Shaw to Southwest., Logan to Chevy Chase Circles,
recalling every misbegotten everything, lamenting, repenting.
How my parents keen and weep, scheme to spring me,
intercept me at corners with bus tokens, pass keys, files baked in cakes.
Komunyakaa the poet says, don't write what you know,
write what you are willing to discover, so I will
spend this year, these long days, meditating on what I am accused of
in the white rooms, city streets, communal showers, mess hall,
where all around me sin and not sin is scraped off tin trays
into oversized sinks, all that excess, scraped off and rinsed away.

Written by Elizabeth Alexander


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