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Poetry

A Letter Upstate

Cole Rodriguez

Dear Papi                                                                                                     
I miss you, boo
I’m just sitting here
Stressing
You know, the rent is due
Baby girl needs sneakers
Car needs new speakers
I ain’t even gonna get into how hectic
My week was
Just trying to make it all happen
It’s that typical hustle
Being a silent statistic in
This complex
Prison struggle

Your lawyer hasn’t called
Bet he would if you owed him money
He takes lunch breaks with assistant DA’s
And then comes back to you talking funny
Does he make offers
Or take offers
Seems like he just delivers their penalty
So it can seem much softer
Those lawyer costs and all these
Missed work days
Seems like the court only redeems
The defendant
That pays

Yeah, justice IS blind
Since it can’t see
That it’s the blind leading the blind
To those verdicts of guilty

The prosecution feels more like persecution
And like no one involved has read
The Constitution

Handshakes and chuckles
From shady representation
Overseeing the negotiation
Of your emancipation
Bartering for your future
With no hesitation
Dangerously resembles deal-making
On a plantation

The rich stay getting richer                                                              
While the poor fight each other for scraps
Pitting brother against brother
Through plea bargains and wire taps
As the illusion of freedom

Creates beggars and liars
Scandals permeate the ‘hood
And create insatiable fires

You haven’t missed much
Nothing changes on the block
Kids still skipping school
Drop-outs steady slangin’ rock
Even though it stays moving
The ‘hood never seems to get anywhere
Like fish in a fish tank
We keep swimming, but we’re still here

I’ve seen a bunch of new detecs
In “plain clothes”
Rolling through
Looking for those they consider rejects
In “plain clothes”
Dudes like you
They stop
They entrap
Search and seizure
It’s a wrap
Your info they track
Got you watching your back
It’s with this
Cyclical pattern
They keep our communities under attack

Probation
Check ins
Violations
And counseling sessions
Urine screens
Home visits
This ain’t no way to live, is it?
I get worried about you, boo                                                                                   
Now that you’re part of the system
They call you a defendant
But I see you treated more like a victim

So anyway, Papi
What are you doing with your time?
I hope you’re reading books
And developing the muscle of your mind                                       
You gotta figure out
What you’re gonna do out here
How you plan to be maintaining
Getting a job with a record
Ain’t no joke
I be hearing cats complaining

Take this time to work on you
To consider your own development
Playing spades
Working out
Getting visits from girls
You know all that bullshit’s irrelevant

At the end of the day
Don’t just give away years
The only part of you they can’t imprison
Exists between your ears

Smart isn’t something you are
Smart is something you get
Acquiring knowledge
Like some Air Force Jordan’s
May just be your best asset yet

If nobody else
Stay true to yourself
Make a plan 
Ambitious and attainable
Your ideas and dreams
Unlike your body
Are totally un-restrain-able

Baby girl stays missing you
Hard
So with this letter I included a picture
I visit your mom
Every couple of weeks
She’s still praying and quoting scripture
And even though they don’t send you money
Everyone asks for you
Wanna know when you’ll be out
The local crew at the park
Reminds me
That doing time bought you more ghetto clout

As for me
I’m still reaching for the stars
I see your face
When I look in the moon
So eat right
Stay out of trouble
And, Papi, please write back soon

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