Elizabeth Hawes was awarded Third Place in Poetry in the 2018 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. On September 13, PEN America will celebrate the winners of this year’s contest with a live reading at the Brooklyn Book Festival, Break Out: Voices from the Inside.

The Glitter Squirrel in Me

bring out the Glitter Squirrel in me

The reading dreamer
The yearbook’s class clown
The nacho-eating Twin’s fan

bring out the Glitter Squirrel in me
the I spent my whole cheque on your Christmas present in me
the vegetarian who gets pork chops for her birthday in

the Captain Crunch iceberg lettuce Wonder Bread with mayo
cheese slices in plastic vanilla ice cream with Hershey’s syrup
Hostess cupcake and 2% milk in me

the four season skin and clumpy mascara
housing laughing crescent blues in me

the negative B blood donor
Black. plastic. flecks. of white alyssum in me
the chalkboard paint on the front flower box
announcing how many soldiers died in Iraq today in me

the plaid shirted tilled fields of the Red River Valley
spring/durum/winter wheat planter
“the grass doesn’t need to be mowed yet”
oil-changing, dog-loving, omelet-eating

Libertarian You, yes you
golden-heart cyclist of the North

You bring out the Glitter Squirrel in me
the otter & the cat cuz I tell everyone
I’m Ragstock but now Nordstroms in me

The 12 pack a day of Tab for 20 years in me.

The lighter and blower of candles
buying Sawatdee to go pad thai with tofu
at the Nicollet location with red fans and small tables.

Wearing a Crate and Barrel badge and something black in me
the I’m not going to talk about a novelist
I’m going to be it in me.

the favorite aunt street marching protester in me
the socialist/hold my ground, I wish there were
more sense of direction in me
the I’ll plant thyme and lavender garden instead
of lawn, can’t change a light bulb in me

the pumps clicking on cobbles & fishnets &
everyone in Women’s studies hates me in me
the punks-don’t-tan, Kinks-concert in me the
thinking that whoever eats veal is a douchebag because they are in me

I am the most dedicated optimism
you ever met, the optimist who stays the course
no matter what.

I am the one you warm the car seat for. I
am the one who ate all your fries.

You bring out the Glitter Squirrel in me.
pedaling tricycle to CCR
alone making crazy eights in the basement
with hair like Farrah thin Levi cords
comb in back pocket
the First Ave regular
the named after a nun
the Uptown stroll
the Violent Femmes cassette Ford 250 extend
cab vs the Vespa and Roxy music
the Stella
Artois the Qtip
lover the
the Psychic Warrior
the Thomas Merton

You bring out the Glitter Squirrel in
me tell my life with a garage full
of stage props
and set pieces.
Closets of old
auditions And

My family visits me every night.
stepping into my green room before the
show left, “we got your back”
left, “you got this”

I am the one who survives to love you That is why my love is like chives

a love to recycle all thoughts lost I love so I can finish the story

the way only a glitter squirrel can.