These pieces were submitted by Sean Dalpiaz as part of the 2015 PEN World Voices Online Anthology.

Sean Dalpiaz’s event: Writing on the Inside, Reading on the Outside: Exploring the Work of Prison Writers and Their Mentors

The Pen

Maybe i should have enlisted
i love comradeship & theater
terrible ecstasies
i love no limits, not even death.
i have no death, not even bloody,
                                        not even mourning.
Maybe i should have enlisted
i love the red of because.
i envy childbirth, i love
destruction, the thrill of foreign
utopian experiences.
Maybe i should love
because i have
the lust of the eye.
Maybe Enlistment. Maybe Fulfillment.
Maybe because
i do not love difficult
gray areas of live life.
Because it may be serene.
             It may be eerie.
Because . . . may be c l a r I t y.
             It may be a special world.

Momma told Me
I’ma special boy not
for that special world &
I’ma find My special girl—
the twirl to My dreidel.
blown away, like sawdust
into an enlightened enlistment of love,
a love needless of reason,
race & personality & education.

Maybe i should have enlisted
brotherly love [a bond
unlike marriage].

Maybe i should have enlisted because
Momma departed when pressed
uniforms of rich colors, throaty accents
& steel helmets barked,
“Men to the left, Women to the right!!”
Maybe this was their sport,
their blood pressure.
Maybe We were terrified.
Maybe We were ashamed.
Maybe We couldn’t
wait for it to happen again.

Maybe if They ran faster &
              marched sharper,
i wouldn’t have swung.
Maybe i found Your special girl—
she wore a black pleated mini of stripped fuses,
           white honeycomb knee-highs of salutes
           & a cream-cropped tee of drenched lust.
Momma lied.
Maybe momma died.
Maybe i should have enlisted
because i didn’t want to be its enemy,
i loved civilian-issue
adjective & nouns, verbs & adverbs.

Maybe if We go
they won’t go
along viciously.
Maybe they’re human.
they must be human!
Maybe We can appeal
                            or spark or
maybe those wicked square buildings
aren’t as dull inside as
Our expectations as
their selection.
Maybe it won’t be ashes to ashes,
or dust to dust or
ring around the . . . maybe
that chimney ring
isn’t babies
             isn’t elderly
isn’t a museum
Maybe god.

Maybe i enlisted
there wasn’t supposed to be a sequel!
Still, Some must die in order
for others to live &
i wanted to live!
i wanted to live a live life not
laughed at or spat at . . . I wanted to
scratch my soul by ripping Them.
they said, ‘Them’
& i agreed &
my only greed lies
in the power of life & death, to see
the dark heart of things & get out of
this no-mans land.
i Enlisted!
i Wanted Respect!!!
Maybe my expectations
Maybe Their expectations
Have all been wrong.
Maybe this is the shower
they promised.

Peonism Camouflaged

Peonism camouflaged
Small fragments of political power spread
Out over the globe, a broken jigsaw
of emancipation proclamation
Blasted by the buckshot of a right
To bear arms.
I bore arms since my Augustan birth.
Man down Friday, I am released
A potato famine prophecy
Of an English genocide, a bloodied Taino
Laying in the tall shadows of armored Spaniards,
A sprig of colonialism enslaved
By economists & an oppressor’s courtesy.
From sugar cane to chalky
Heroin to crack cocaine to
A creamy white Model T hooptie,
The anvil of my ears were banged
By the hammers of suicide & homicide.
The echoes of a rainy November perfect storm
Of off-duty detective & ravaged body of hurt
Numbed into a violence cowardly enough
Not to cut his own pulse
Just drop down on one bended knee,
A blacktop supplication of blood, saliva & a god
Blind enough to rescue.
All claimed rights right past mi pasado
Desperados of present moments
Bearing semi-automatic arms against
An automatic anti-serfdom,
I shine barrels & holsters,
Polish away white woman misogyny
& snap shotgun barrels in lock,
Sawed-off rugged hollow sounds howl
From my O-shaped mouth, my lips purple with carnal,
Teeth black like they’ve been pulled,
Extracted flesh smile cut
Like an itchy trigger finger
Taste-testing the bitterness
Of gun metal, the sweetness
Of quick favors from the nameless
Screams of craniums, sometimes left
With no other choice: but shoved
Gun in fists.

A Place Called Loneliness

A place called loneliness, a soft town in October.
Scarred not for life, but for time,
The way once you are raped,
No inch of time, the indelible.
Its influence went way beyond communalization,
She abhorred his testimony.
It went way beyond fury,
She abhorred the acrimony flush against the Judge’s lapel.
Potential romances shrilled her.
It went way beyond broken clocks & heart palpitations,
She abhorred the D.A.’s accentuating pantsuit.
This sun rose this day for a feminist justice.
It went way beyond the tempter vs. the tempted,
She abhorred the foghorn whistling in the bright of day
As she was forced to dance his nefarious adagio,
Nobody went way beyond the peripheral.
She abhorred her loose sweat suit of trauma.
She abhorred the irony.
Adam adjourned each entry of her diary.
He spread her mind, like madness
As broken anxiety re-separated as the premium piled as
Rotaries dialed and her allowance was spent
On phone booth rendezvous to soothe evening’s hurt.
Evening’s hurt hurts just as much,
The breakage is overwhelming even for the night
Where all the fractures can be more readily hidden,
Where all the bric-a-brac belongs & chug bourbon in song,
Where the doctor waits for the house call,
Where the house
Calls for a nucleus, sweet as boysenberry,
Sweet as eyes sweeping the streets for the poor, poor souls
Slick as Saudi Arabian oil & tossed aside,
Like crinkled periodicals & earmarked Qurans
In the gutters of the city’s busyness.