Frank Kensaku Saragosa was awarded 1st Place in Fiction in the 2022 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.


I didn’t hit bottom. I hit The Bottoms.

That’s what I did. I left rehab and headed straight for The Bottoms.


They call it the East Village. That made me laugh at first. I lived in Manhattan and I know the East Village. This is not the East Village. I mean, it’s got that Space for Art, it’s got a cool performance space, it’s got cool new bars and restaurants, it’s got a gritty, industrial vibe. There’s a lot of new construction, but if you go far enough south and far enough east, to the very corner of downtown, right where the East Village hits Barrio Logan on the south and Golden Hill on the east, where Vinnie’s is (St. Vincent de Paul’s), and the Neil Good Day Center, and the Alpha Project tent—that’s San Diego’s skid row, it’s the heart of darkness, it’s where homeless people go to shoot up right on the street, out in the open, it’s where everything goes down, where whatever you’re looking for, black, or white, or rock, or powder, or roxies, or blues, or e, or china white that’s not really china white really it’s fentanyl, you can find it, right there, on the street, but not for strangers, you get hurt asking for shit like that people you don’t know don’t know you, if you do know, then you know where to go. It’s not dirty there, it’s grimy. But for people like me, it’s the place to go.

To finish reading this, as well as the works of all other contributors, purchase Variations on an Undisclosed Location: 2022 Prison Writing Awards Anthology here.