Terry Hedin was awarded third place in Poetry in the 2020 Prison Writing Contest.

Every year, hundreds of imprisoned people from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population.

This piece is also featured in Breathe Into the Ground, the 2020 Prison Writing Awards Anthology.

* El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma is a transfer center for federal inmates, who are then transported from there to other federal prisons throughout the country.


Today, I gazed upon the Oklahoma plain,
felt the wind blowing upon my chest.
The same breeze that, in its journey,
ruffled the white fur of the Arctic fox,
traveling freely across the land
as I once did.
Today, when I felt the wind,
I could not travel with it.
Past the guard tower it blew,
over and around
the cyclone fence and razor wire.
The obstacles that contain me,
meant nothing to it.
It caressed me in passing,
and went on its way.

Illustrations by Students at Parsons School of Design