How Did You Manage Prison Without Going Completely Crazy?
          -a question asked by Sarena Fox

Grew more twisted every day,
singing lyrics to old songs on repeat,
joking around although it wasn’t always joking.
I entered prison a good man with regrets,
left with my remorse device
powered down for good.
Between, I had cigarettes & poetry,
the first replacing the thrill of the hunt &
fear of getting caught,
second that could’ve gotten me in more trouble
if the wrong person read my words.
I survived it, as I tell you now
that you will. But sane? Don’t
expect too much from freedom.
It pokes you & points out flaws
like another convict looking for a fight.
You will think about prison
several times a day as if still in it,
nostalgic for the horrible past.
Who wouldn’t call that madness?
It’s what a long incarceration does:
it poisons the water
even as someone is turning it into wine.

ACE BOGGESS is author of six books of poetry, including Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021), I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, and The Prisoners. His writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble. His seventh collection, Tell Us How to Live, is forthcoming in 2024 from Fernwood Press.