David Pickett was awarded Second Place in Poetry in the 2019 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 18, PEN America will celebrate the winners of this year’s contest with a live reading at the Brooklyn Book Festival, BREAK OUT: A 2019 PEN America Prison Writing Awards Celebration.


Time Reversal Invariance

“Time reversal invariance fails for the decay of the K meson, or kaon.” —David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality

It used to be that physicists 
thought the world might run 
the same forward as in reverse: 
that is to say, we had no means 
to know which way time flowed.
In such a world, a stream where 
we were carried against the current 
of our lives, cartwheeled up the slope 
of our personal avalanches—
the whock-whock-whock of helicopter blades 
scooped the air between crash site 
and yellow cross on hospital roof 
led directly to the black stench
of burning rubber and the glittering ice 
of glass pebbles cast among the highway
shoulder’s muted gray gravel and 
the confusing geometry of the wreck: 
limbs askew, bent at obtuse angles, 
isosceles triangles excised from fleshy parts, 
barred circle imprinted on the driver’s chest, 
hyperbolic spray of blood on the grass; 
which upcoming or just past convinced 
the driver to send one last text 
or the first in a series which ends 
as he pulls out of the driveway, headed
toward his final equation’s solution 
or his morning cup of coffee, dark 
brewed and bitter, thick foamy liquid 
straining itself back into ground beans.