When Hope Dies
By Craig A. Ross
When hope dies in prison, nothing is left.
When it lies withering on the visiting room floor,
or shattered in the isolation of a cold cell, nothing is left.
When hope dies you cannot see the brightness of the sun,
nor feel its warmth wrapped tightly around you like a lover's arms.
You cannot hear the song of the ocean in your bones pulling you with ancient rhythms towards the moon.
And you cannot move, you cannot breathe, you cannot think straight because your whole being is numb,
suffocating in the invisible,
When hope dies in prison there is nothing left.
You don't think about pleasure, about fucking, about kissing.
Skin against skin,
You forget likeness, oneness, sameness,
of looking into eyes that hold the promise and sweetness of tomorrow,
of smiles weakened by despair and cast adrift upon wave after wave,
after wave of secret and intimate gestures.
There is nothing left when hope dies in prison.
And you forget I, Me, You, We, everything.
There is no leftover memory of pressing someone else's body close to yours -
chest against breast -
stomach against belly -
face lingering in the groove of softness that the neck offers.
Everything is gone, when hope dies in prison.
There is nothing left.
You are always being consumed by fire,
becoming ashes, becoming mute echoes of an inner voice claiming - "Everything is gonna be alright".
But nothing has the same consistency, except, for emptiness which settles on the heart like bricks.
And the prison walls are higher than any dream you could ever dream,
because everything is beyond your reach, beyond your imagination.
And you struggle with obsolete reasons to struggle because your soul refuses to play the game, anymore.
And if nothing is left, you can pray to every single God in every single heaven and not be heard.
And you could be reborn but it wont matter,
it wont matter because in a windowless cell,
everything is artificial.
When hope dies there is nothing left.
And if you scream who will hear you... who will stand up and shout: You are not alone!... You are not alone!...
You are not alone.
When hope dies in prison
Who will hold onto you in the darkness as you slip further and
of your ever fading and disappearing world?
Who will restore mind and body?
Who will breathe love and life into a broken soul?
Who will fling open the gates of no return?
Who will come forward when there is nothing left?
When hope dies in prison,
I wonder, in the silence of silence can I create something someone else could feel,
And I wonder, if I raced against time will I find hope concealed in every hour,
in every minute,
in every second?
Will I be able to drag it back to the surface only to discover my own madness inside my empty hands?
When hope dies in prison there is no laughter, no comforting breeze, no memory.
There is no looking forward, or looking back. And the only familiarity, is the familiarity of dying.
When hope dies in prison.
There is absolutely nothing left.
Craig A. Ross
San Quentin State Prison
Poetry, writing & Lessons in Life from San Quentin death row