Kevin Costa was awarded an Honorable Mention in Poetry in the 2017 Prison Writing Contest. Costa is currently incarcerated at the Bay State Correctional Center in Massachusetts.

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.


A corrugated tin Quonset Hut rusts
just beyond the fences.
Faded green paint peels from the doors.
The concrete slab that it’s built on
powders away a little more every day.
I’ve watched this slow motion show
year after year.

I’ve been in other prisons
surrounded by tall white walls.
The outside views were always the same:
sky and the tops of trees.
You soon forget trees have trunks.
You forget many things
staring at a tall white wall.

In this prison
I can watch deer
emerge from the thick woods
to munch on the low green grass.
I can watch geese and their young
march to a small pond. I can watch
chipmunks, rabbits and skunks.

I can watch until I feel
clubbed with life.
Until I realize I still love
the world and wish again
for a tall white wall.