- Prison and Justice Writing
- Annual Prison Writing Contest
- Prison Writing Award Winners Archive
- PEN America Prison Writing Award Winners: 2022
Litany in Pairs
Chad Rand was awarded the Fielding Dawson Prize in Poetry 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.
You are the birdsong, and I am the spoons.
You are the Higgs particle, and I am the
spine of a well-read book. You make the uni-
verse something, and I’m all dog-eared pages.
You are the fox tail, the staple-puller, the
clackety tracks for trains, and the saltlick.
I am the wireless router, applause, the blow-
hole, and the burnt edges of oatmeal cookies.
You are also the basket of raspberries, the
drumbeats off in the distance, the warm
winter coat, the lobster. I’m the dropped
penny, the brown grass where dogs piss, acne
scars, and the rice thrown at weddings.
You’re the southern baptist preacher, all brim-
stone and praise, while I’m the gravel road
outside. Our lovemaking, full of sweat and gospel
and grit. Our embraces, a jackal with a rabbit
in its teeth. Each kiss, a rope that can’t
quite reach the sandstone canyon floor.
What we’ll never be is the lock and the key.
I’m already broke open, and you’re not that
intrusive. Instead, let’s say you’re the leftover
bullet, and I, the empty chamber of the gun.