Tag Archive : prison life

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Black Women

August 24, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: Duane Kelly # 488959B | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

Beautiful Black Women
Where shall I begin?

Intelligent, classy, and strong
Putting up with brothers for so very long

Inspirational, independent, and talented
Always to be appreciated, never to be taken for granted

Mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers
Always there, always supportive, holding families together

The center of Black Pride
Queens dignified, Diva personified

Single, married, and hardworking
Raising babies, loving wives
and still holding down good cooking

Soft, sensitive, and sexy
It’s a privilege and pleasure to have you next to me

Easily my better half
Making two into one, using the lovers’ math

My beautiful Black Women, out of all GOD’s creations,
We were made to last

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It’s Monday

August 18, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: Raymond “Hamzah” Franklin # 860075B | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

It’s Monday. I know it’s Monday because Monday’s lunch is always hotdogs. And guess what was served today? Shriveled, barely boiled, pink with little hints of green…hotdogs.

I am not complaining; at least there was something to eat. However, using food to calculate the days and weeks really does a number on food selection – Sunday chicken, Monday hotdogs, Tuesday taco meat, Wednesday hamburger and potato puffs, Thursday casserole (that’s what They call it), Friday fish, and Saturday chili…I know the days of the week by what I’m eating, or what I’m not eating in most cases.

Speaking of not eating, breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day. But here in the International House of Prisons, breakfast is served during a one half-hour period only. If you miss it, you miss it. There is no going to get your breakfast if you have a medical appointment or some other matter of importance that just so happened to be scheduled during breakfast period. Once the thirty minutes are up, the extra food (enough to feed the city’s homeless) is bagged and donated to the prison’s rats. I’m not talking about the ‘Snitches who get the Stitches’, (or maybe I am); I mean the food, in all its enormity, is thrown away.

The officers, of course, get their split before the rats get to nibbling. Certain privilege holders – we’ll just call them ‘finks’ – get their fair share as well. But the bulk of what the kitchen puts out is almost automatically destined for the dumpster. On top of that, the prison will actually punish its wards for trying to eat it! I don’t get it. The prison feeds portions to grown men that won’t satisfy Orphan Annie or Oliver Twist; yet, the grown men are given infractions for trying to commandeer the food that the prison intended to throw away!

Why not leave the food on the line and allow the people – prisoners, officers, and staff – to eat from it all day? Treat it like a buffet. If the people have no other obligations, then they can go to the buffet line and eat!

Or why not start a food donation program? Gather some of the homeless from around the city and usher them into the mess hall. Have the prisoners seat and serve them. Let the prisoners give them an hour or two of humane treatment for once. Win-win for everybody…well, not everybody.

If the powers that be – the check writers – ever got wind that the prison was runnings a food donation drive for the homeless, the first thing the powers would do is lessen the food budget. They would claim that they have been allotting too much money for food just because there is enough food to give away after feeding the prisoners. They would rather throw it away due to greed than allow their wards to benefit or even allow the needy of the community to prosper even just a bit.

We are not talking about Cracker Barrel or Denny’s, or Old Country Buffet, or Outback Steakhouse, or Sonic, or 5 Guys Burgers and Fries, or Applebee’s, or T.G.I. Fridays, or Olive Garden, or any mom & pop, slime & slop pizza joint… we’re taking about prison food! – The morsels and crumbs that certain persons of society have deemed suitable for the non-desirables.

But, it’s nobody’s fault. After all, it’s Monday…hotdog day. Or Tuesday… taco day. Or Wednesday… burger and tots day. Or Thursday… mystery casserole day. Or Friday… fish day. Or Saturday… chili day. Or Sunday… chicken (yard bird) day. There is not enough food to donate to the homeless, but there is plenty to give to the rats.

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From A Fallen

August 14, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: P. Reid # 830759C | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

Prison life is a serious thing – not just the circumcision from life, as we know it, but by the boundaries of how the entire family dynamic suffers a massive fracture by an individual’s incarceration.

We allow the pressure of society to cause us to deny love to the one who have fallen from grace by virtue of a crime committed.

Love me despite me…!

The struggles of the children of the incarcerated are never seen and their challenges, to achieve their goals despite the handicap of having their lives inverted, not by a selfish act of the parent governed by rules of oppression and degradation to levels not known by onlookers who can’t see beneath the undercurrent of modern day slavery.

The challenges of trying to parent from behind the wall takes a strong and virtuous individual who refuses to compromise of his or her values and principles that keeps perspective of who we are evident to those we are trying to instill morals as they persist to exist.

Covered in stereotype and societal bias as to being compared to the scum of the earth, even if the incarcerated is innocent and convicted by a system configured to keep the ‘machine’ oiled and continuous, it is also regardless of the need to fulfill the farce concept of justice.

Getting the assistance needed to regain freedom can be very trying at times. Those suited to power are those who have never sought it, and he who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.

Not being able to affect influence or change in the lives of loved ones wears at the soul of an individual who cares – gone but hopefully notable forgotten…

I have always given my truth to be ‘overstood’ that there are still good people left in this world of ‘Me Too’ and the ‘watch what I’m doing!’ Having the courage to live my way and striving to getting to a place where my respect for self and others leave me happy to be whom I want to be, even if I’m draped in Khaki and referred to by numbers.

We are told never to judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. But then, it doesn’t matter, ’cause you’re a mile away and you’ve got his shoes!’ Besides, every man’s journey is not his own – but also those of whom his ties carry.

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Author: Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

Coronavirus marches on with time. Flipping the calendar today, I realized that on Friday, July 31st 2020, it will be our second Eid Holiday of the year.

In the Islamic calendar, there are only two main holidays. They are both called Eid. The first one, the smaller Eid, Eid-ul-Fitr to be specific, takes place after the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a month of fasting. The second Eid, the ‘Big Eid’, Eid-ul-Adha to be specific, takes place after the yearly Pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, called “Hajj”. A Pilgrimage that is one of the Five Fundamental Principals of Islam.

The Hajj ends with the sacrificial slaughtering of an animal according to the tradition of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). This tradition is a commonality between the Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Although, there is a slight variation, where Muslims believe that Abraham was going to sacrifice his son Isma’eel (Ishmael), and the other two religious texts mention Ishaaq (Issac) as the chosen son.

I remember the Big Eid in Pakistan when I was a kid, the local custom was to buy an animal a month or two prior to the Eid day. That way the animal was domesticated and a bond developed between the family and the animal. So, in a way, sacrificing the beloved animal would be hard due to that affection; an obvious effort to mimic Abraham’s trial and anguish.

Among other fond memories of that time were the new tailored Eid clothes, food, visiting neighbors, family, friends, and hitting the bazaars of Lahore. But, more than anything, the receiving of ‘Eidy’ was the best, a particular tradition where the family elders would give money to the young.

For us kids, it was a happy time. And we had our favorite uncles, aunts, and cousins, whom were known to be more generous than those who were of a frugal temperament. You see, at that age the intricacies of who was well-to-do and who was not was not in our periphery.

Later on, in America, the Big Eid was a bit dull in comparison. Obviously, we couldn’t get a pet lamb, goat, or ox at home to raise and sacrifice on the Eid day. So, here in the “civilized” world, our family would either send money to Pakistan, to have a relative slaughter an animal and distribute the meat to the poor, or would buy an animal here at one of the local Islamic slaughter houses and get that very important part of the Big Eid over with.

But, we did keep other traditions alive. Such as, congregating for Eid prayer in one of the local mosques and then returning to dress up in new clothes; And then to start making the rounds from Long Island through Queens, and then to New Jersey to wish our family and friends an “Eid Mubarak”, Blessed Eid, greetings and to receive our Eidys.

I remember when some of our older cousins would make us laugh commenting in jest, regarding the need for everyone to become celibate due to the increase in the amount of children from year to year, which obviously affected their finances in paying Eidy.

As I grew older and entered my 20s, it became a sensed of pride for me to give Eidy to those who were younger than me. I remember making prayer to be more successful the following years so that I could give more and be that favorite brother, cousin, and uncle. Unfortunately, that prayer was not answered by the All Mighty. So, I still make the same prayer, still hoping for a better tomorrow.

The food spread and conversations were the best part of our special day. There was serenity to it, a calmness that placed your body and soul at ease. In my opinion, having a religious holiday, rich with over a few millennia worth of history, somehow seems to mean much more than our made up holidays like birthdays, anniversaries, and other such frivolities.

Coming to prison jars the very core of your being. People say to, “watch out in here, cause ‘they’ will come for you. ” The truth is, ‘they’ don’t come for you, ‘they’ come for your soul! In this labyrinth of evil, you tend to lose the very things that make you human. Among those things, happiness tops the charts.

Anyhow, our Big Eid is usually a simple affair. A congregational prayer is followed by a few refreshments and then a prompt return to our cages.

On our housing units we prepare our meals together as brothers in faith to give some color to our bland canvas of merrymaking. But, eating is another thing. I don’t remember a single Eid behind bars where I didn’t just stare at the food after receiving it.

Without family, a man is lost. And I’ve been lost for a longtime now. But, with the Grace of GOD, almost every time, a Muslim brother’s helping nudge or remark would break my trance. Our eyes would meet and that mutual and shared pained look would be held for the briefest of moments and then we would simply nod and carry on.

Grown men don’t cry!

This year, COVID-19 has restricted our so-called festivities even further. No congregational prayers this time again. And also, once again, the prison kitchen would send an ‘Eid Food Tray’ prepared by select Muslim prisoners to everyone. That will be the extent of ‘official’ celebrations.

Nevertheless, as I said before, among us we shall create our own mirage of an Eid celebration. As always, I would surely retreat to my cell, placing my food on the metal table that is attached to metal sink and toilet, and then I would sit next to my ‘slit’ of a window to blankly stare outside, trying to picture my parents, brother, sister in law, and the two bundles of joy, my nephew and niece, among other family members and friends, feeling yet another episode of Eid Holiday Blues.

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Author: Santise “San Man” Robinson | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

I recently applied for a pardon. But, I wasn’t afforded an opportunity to speak to the decision makers. Let me share with you what I wanted to convey:

A Human Rights Watch report states that advances in neuroscience have found that adolescents and young adults continue to develop in ways particularly relevant to assessing criminal behavior and an individual’s ability to be rehabilitated. These findings show that young offenders are particularly amenable to change and Rehabilitation.

I am not trying to deny the wrongs that I have done, nor the crimes which I have committed, neither am I seeking to try and justify them in any shape or form.

My childhood was what it was.

Sure when I committed my crimes I was an angry, hurt, self destructive young male with no realistic idea that I could have a better life. Therefore, I owned with absolute certainty, the ignorant mindset; ‘nothing would ever change!’

The belief system construed at such a young age made me feel: I had no chance whatsoever for a better life.

However after years of inner reflection and finally finding answers to my troubled childhood questions – which forced me to pause and to for once understand, that I did not have to be what my circumstances dictated – the realization came that I could actually change my own conditions.

It wasn’t easy coming to this awareness. It has taken well over 20 years of self learning in this environment for me to be able to conceive that I could break the family cycle and stand as my own man.

All that I want is a chance, the opportunity to exhibit to the world the man that I have become.

I want to be … more than some negative statistic; I want to be … much more than a prisoner who dies behind walls.

I want the opportunity to stand and walk as a man. To do enough good with the rest of my life that others will know that I have changed and grown. And I am no longer that lost, angry, and deluded ‘man child’.

I have become a man with a heart, soul, and mind who really does care and has the acuity to be a tremendous asset to my community and to benefit society as a whole.

In here where wanting is never having; day and night are basically the same, only the sun and stars mark the difference. I find myself dreaming, hoping in the face of despair and desiring what is most unlikely. Simply because I now know that I am better than my situation is and I can rise above my circumstance. I am now a responsible human being, I have no excuses.

* * * * *

‘Pardon Denied – Apply at a Later Date.’

With that simple phrase above, I was recently denied my Petition for a Pardon. Yet, with the comprehension and wisdom of my own positive change, I, fortunately, learnt the power of being optimistic as well. Yes, the answer was a ‘No’ this time, but I am hopeful for a better future.

The fight does not stop!

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I Rise Still

July 15, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: Kory “Hussain” McClary | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

Even after all of the transgression and oppression
Against people of my complexion
Standing tall with a pen as my weapon
I’m going down writing!!!
I will not be silenced – By this system of recondite violence

I Rise Still

Through this concrete and steel, I will assure that my word is
heard
Throughout this world
My pen will write, until I am free, or
without life!!!
Standing here resilient and austere

I Rise Still

Through the cracks and crevices
of this ‘penal’ development
I will not be appeased, until I am
standing free – reunited with my
family!

I Rise Still

After years and years of disquieting
rejection, inimical reflection
of my case, by a Court
with a racist support beam
I will never give up my dream
to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the
leaders of the culture

I Still Rise

My scent spreads through the prison vents
It emanates on the other side of the gate
And spreads far and wide
emitting my fragrance
Freedom!!!

I Rise Still

Through this concrete maze, this living
grave
I’m traveling past lost souls
Physically they’re here, but their minds
are gone!
I constantly remind myself that
this is just a Sojourn
Eventually I will be home

I Rise Still

And still I rise, I’m on an
ink pen high, chasing my life,
And still I write…
That the stenographer, the judge,
the State, the lawyer, and the jury,
were all White!
And with this black ink, I speak
the truth
Like so many, I was captured as
a youth
And still I rise like Mya Angelou’s…

I Rise Still

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Author: Kory “Hussain” McClary | Edited by Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

I didn’t know you can cry in ya’ sleep
Till I woke up with tears in my eyes
What the fuck is going on?
Real niggas don’t cry
Take this shit like a man…
Head up … Chest out…!
I’m a man!
But still, I woke with tears in my eyes
I thought that after all the bullshit
I’ve been through
I could no longer cry…
‘Muh’ died, ‘Ta’ died, I blew my trial
‘Pop Pop’ died, ‘Dez’ died, my appeal got denied
Then ‘K’ died, Mike died, ‘Stephen’ died
Damn Cuz!
I thought that I was tough
Especially after all that stuff
I held my head up, chest out
I ain’t pout
But, Somehow,
I woke up with tears in my eyes
What could I have been crying about…?
It don’t make sense…
All the bullshit, I dealt with
Held it in, showed no emotion
Now, my time getting longer…
This cell getting smaller…
Damn! This bit getting harder…
I guess that’s why when
I woke up with tears in my eyes
What was I dreaming about…?
Probably freedom
I just got denied again
And every time I close my eyes
I see the sky
Or me having kids and a wife
Some shit that may never happen in this life
No wonder why
When I woke up I had tears in my eyes
Maybe it was a nightmare…?
I keep having this recurring image
Of me spending life in this prison
One hundred thirty years was the sentence
Is that why?
When I woke up I had tears in my eyes
I don’t know…
I’m going through so much shit …
I don’t know
I’m trying to sleep through the pain
Because in here, there is nothing
That could mask the pain
I’m innocent!!!
But, the verdict, returned guilty!
Most likely, that’s the reason why
When I sleep I cry …

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Author: Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

“Personal Protective Equipment” (PPE), it’s a term I have come to know well while watching Governor Murphy, and Cuomo, on the TV screen almost everyday. In this time of chaos in our country, both of them seem to present a calming and mature handle at the helm. And with the travesty at the federal level, our local leadership is something to be proud of.

Yet, I was taken aback when Gov. Murphy stated that he had reached out to the Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Ping, in order to procure PPE from China. The thing that bothers me to no end is that leaving the ventilators issue aside, why is it so hard to produce simple PPE for the doctors, nurses and first responders? It seems a simple enough task.

Moreover, my family and friends also informed me that there are lots of folks online who are showing people to make their own masks, and other protective gear. So, why do our leaders have to go to China?

At the end, PPE consists of plastic, elastic, and a bit of sewing. So, I have to ask this much, what is the purpose of having the most sophisticated and advanced country in the world when we can’t even manage to manufacture something as basic.

Speaking about purpose, it got me thinking….

Way back in 2005, after a two and a half year arduous stint in the county jail, when I arrived in New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), life was very different. Besides its notorious reputation and other associated stories of horror, I found NJSP to be quite unpretentious. There were obvious lines that were drawn among this captive society and the prison life had its predictable ebbs and flow. This in turn, kept the cogs turning so to speak. What I am trying to convey, in non-prisoner layman’s terms, is that the wheel of life turned smoothly because it had a mundane but an extremely important purpose: Work!

I don’t know what it is about work and men? Perhaps it’s in our genes that provides an urge to be productive. In those days everyone’s life revolved around their “work detail”. There were food service guys, brothers who worked in the school and law library areas. Others worked the sanitation details. There were chaplaincy, and vocational school clerks. There was also a large “ice-room detail” in addition to laundry department workers etc.

More importantly, NJSP had a sewing shop, a knit shop, also electric, plumbing, welding, upholstery and other services available for prisoners to hone their crafts. There was a paint shop with artists of such caliber that would have made a Renaissance painter proud. They painted such elaborate life-like murals that NJSP became famous for it.

The work details provided a purpose, a focal point for the lifers and long term prisoners to find some sort of meaning in their complicated, yet humble lives. It provided, more than anything, a compromise for a human being to, well, being human. Being useful and of substance, providing a trace of pride.

I remember this older brother. He would often come to the mess-hall, located in the older part of NJSP, the West Compound, and look for me. I am not going to use his name. I don’t know if I have the right to do so. You see, he has been gone for a while now, finally resting in his final abode. All I will share is that he was an older Muslim brother from the South. He had a southern charm and this smile that would put all your worries away, a sincerity that is missing in this world, the genuine type. He worked in the shops area and would bring me boot laces, knit hats, new socks etc. It don’t know how many pairs of socks or laces he brought, but I couldn’t say no to him. And it wasn’t just me; he did that for every person in the prison. Not just us Muslims, he was equally gracious to all.

He would say, “Tariq, man have you seen them lil kids on TV? They be shivering in that cold, and walking bare feet in that desert there! I wish I could send some boots, socks, and hats to them babies, man”.

“There are a lot of kids who need that stuff brother, you are going to be a busy cat if you go on that route,” I would answer playfully, knowing well that he would do that and more if he only had a chance.

“Can’t give up on them babies Tariq, they need help. We gots to help’um when it’s needed. Otherwise, we ain’t no better. We gonna go see the All Mighty one day, I don’t know about everyone else, I need ALL the help I can get for the Day of Judgment. Gots to stack them good deeds brother.” He would then flash that smile, leaving me speechless. It seemed his whole goal was to help and be of service to others. It was who he was, not what he was here for.

Then like all good things, the work details were eliminated. The New Jersey Department of Corrections, NJDOC, finally realized that there was no more need to pretend. The public didn’t care and with the type of sentencing scheme the State of New Jersey was following, well, it didn’t require adherence to the “Corrections” farce. With mandatory minimum sentences, no one was given any work or ‘good time’ credits towards their sentences. Basically, no one was going anywhere, at least not in this lifetime. So, all shops and technical job details were removed and the prison authorities, in quite an unabashed fashion, embraced and promulgated the notion that they were actually in the business of “warehousing” human beings rather than the nonsensical and unprofitable idea of rehabilitation. And just like that, over a thousand men in NJSP became idle.

When a man’s’light’ goes off there is an actual physical affect that becomes apparent. In case of that older Muslim brother, he immediately seemed to sour. More often, I would be holding him back from arguing with someone in the mess-hall where he once brightened the entire area with his smile.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me Tariq,” he once said after I forced him to sit down and glared the other person he was arguing with. “I ain’t got no job, what am I supposed to do now? Can’t just sit in my cell stare at them walls brother,” he mumbled as if he was daydreaming, looking somewhere beyond. In response, I gave him my readymade reply about being patient. And he just showed me a sad hint of his famous smile.

You guys know that saying, “Get busy living, and get busy dying””, from that movie “Shawshank Redemption”… right? Now, I don’t know if you all know what a man looks like when he starts to dissolve.

I do.

I saw my kind old friend crumble in short episodes….

Today, sitting here in my cell watching Gov. Murphy talk about obtaining PPE from China, I thought of my friend. And I thought of all of my other friends sitting idle in small cramped spaces, staring at the walls worrying about their families outside, wishing they could do something to help.

I wanted to scream and tell our Governor that we can do that work and we are willing to grind. Be part of that fight, a fight which we all supposedly are in together.

I would like to tell our Governor, Murphy, that there are men here who can work the sewing and knitting shops to produce protective gear. PPE, it’s just plastic, elastic, and maybe rubber. Not something that can be labeled as a security issue.

There are men here that would volunteer and work hard, and would do everything in their power to earn some chance at redemption, a chance to be part of the whole, a society, a state, a people.

If only given an opportunity, they would work to find solace, meaning, and yes, even purpose.

Give us a chance Governor Murphy, I promise you that we will not let you down!

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Remember The Time

June 17, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: Robinson “San-man” Santise
Incarcerated writer SBI: #TMP/1000271 PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625

Remember when we first met?
Remember when I first laid eyes
upon you and I smiled?
Remember when my thoughts of you
inspired creativity?
Remember when there was nothing
capable of separating us?
Remember when We meant Us, not
just United as States but
recognizing and understanding our
united fate?
Learning and getting to
know one another
So beautiful, so strong…
However
I don’t remember the Time
The lack of oxygen to my brain
is suffocating my condition
a Black man;
Sick…
Unemployed – Economically ill
Heart disease, diabetes – Physically I’ll
Under educated, imprisonment – Spiritually ill
There are
all types of viruses constantly
attacking this Hued Man’s condition
Tired…
of being afraid of being
of carrying the burden of
someone else’s inadequacies
of struggling for each and every
breath of my existence
This is the Time of remembering, so that
we may never forget that we have the
capacity to amplify the strength and
beauty of human condition by
being the shared experience of life

And I would like to thank the agents of
oppression for taking your boot off of our
necks and replacing it with your knee
for a more violent death
Because within
the violent throes of death, the United
movement of life is born
So please
Remember the Time…
when humanity inhaled its collective breath
We ain’t asking no more!

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Author: Tariq MaQbool
Incarcerated writer, fighting to prove my innocence. You can reach me at Tariq MaQbool #532722/830758C PO Box 861 Trenton NJ 08625 or via JPay.com

Merry making is a common human trait. Regardless of culture, creed, religion or ethnicity, we all have our own celebrations.

Eid in prison is like building a sandcastle with the tide approaching. Even when you are having fun building it, you know the impending doom. The reality of disappointment washes over as fast as the waves level the sandcastle on the beach.

Usually on Eid days, as soon as the doors are open at 6:30 am morning count, Muslim prisoners rush to take their ritual showers and get ready for Eid Prayers in the big visiting hall. After that we get to enjoy a few refreshments, courtesy of the NJDOC. The affair is a simple one, some cake, donuts, coffee, milk, and juice. For an hour or so, we get to play and make believe that this is normal somehow. It is not. After that, we are unceremoniously kicked out of the hall to return to our housing units.

Once on the unit, we do try our level best for some sort of normalcy. For example, brothers on the unit get together to make a meal for everyone, this comradeship is something that kindles the semblance of family, and for that much I am truly grateful.

However, for me the actual festivities start when I get the phone on my allotted time. That is when I get to call home and talk to my family and loved ones, and for the duration of that invisible telecom link I am in heaven. Usually, I will call home and speak to different members of my family who gather at my aunt’s house. Hearing their voices and knowing that they all got together helps me, for a briefest of moments, to enjoy the Eid vicariously. For that too, I am truly grateful.

After the customary call, I usually sit next to my slit of a window and look outside feeling rather blue. I reminisce about the good old days of freedom when I was home. It was a time that now is a very, very distant memory. Actually, now it’s more of a yearning then memory, a longing, a hope in this dark place. Disregarding the futility of my situation, I would then remind myself and find comfort in an old Urdu proverb: “The world rests on hope!”

Alas, COVID-19 restrictions placed all of the usual out of the window so to speak. This year there are no gatherings in the big halls for Congregational prayers and we had to pray alone in our cells. But, we did try to stay with the normal routine of showers in the morning and meal preparation among ourselves on our units.

Anyways, coming back to my main subject of Eid Holiday Blues, over the years, there has been a gradual shift in my accustomed ‘tradition’ of calling and talking to everyone on Eid. I started to notice some changes in the people. I noticed it today as well.

When time passes and something changes in relationships there is an awkwardness that hangs heavy. I guess time is like gravity in a sense that it places an invisible pressure on all things and the result is different for everyone and everything. Time heals; it makes you forget, it makes you indifferent, and makes you a multitude of things. Some good, some bad, some ugly, and that too perhaps depend upon the person, place, or thing. So, overtime, as with all things, people and their attitudes change as well.

In the beginning of this journey I had family and friends present for some support. Over the years some would fall off the ‘contact-list’ and would then come back. Yet, it was the Eid Day calls where we would get in touch and rekindle our ties of kinship.

Later on, it was work or this engagement or that meeting that kept some missing on those Eid calls. I chalked it up to the busy highway of life with all its exits and off ramps, firmly holding on to the hope that sooner or later we will find our way back home. But, in reality, there was more than I had unfortunately inferred. You see ‘wishful-thinking’ cannot marinate in the pot of reality.

The CoronaVirus pandemic has been teaching a lot of lessons all around. It taught me one on this day as well. COVID-19 restrictions sort of made almost everyone available. So, the regular excuse about you just missing him or they left already or she is at work didn’t really materialize. And speaking to my extended family, I realized that some spoke to me not with ‘want’ but with more of ‘charity’ in my mind. Others did so to appease someone who actually did care, and some avoided speaking at all. I almost felt as if I was a stranger among my own. But, then again, as I said about ‘wishful-thinking’, I have known this reality for a long time.

A friend once asked me how it felt to be locked up for such a long time. I told her that it is like being frozen in time. I was locked up at the age of 25, and for me the time stopped. All of my points of reference for the life outside ceased at that very moment. Every perspective I had was defined by the perception of that 25 years old Tariq. I only knew life, family, and people, from that angle. To me, nothing ever changed.

But, of course, everything has changed; time doesn’t stop for anything. I feel like a twig that was floating on a river, and I got too close to the riverbank when the winter came in perpetuity. A 150 year sentence winter, a never-ending, everlasting, amaranthine of a slow death. Yet, the reel of my life didn’t stop, and my family and loved ones are flowing by in the center of the river-run. I can see everything but being frozen I can’t say anything. I am not part of that free flowing life. Over time I have seen many changes in my family. At times I am screaming but no one pays mind to a frozen-in-time twig. It feels cold, and blue.

It is hurtful as it highlights my loneliness and a sense of being abandoned. Being invisible and irrelevant is not easy to swallow. It is beyond humbling to realize that I am not who I used to be. I am a shadow, an abstract thought, a concept of a bygone era, a very, very distant memory.

A close family member once told me, in a not so subtle manner, “We have to prioritize in life!” – I got the message then. But, with COVID-19 pandemic, as a prisoner, I find myself dropping steeply on the ‘priority list’ of both family and society.

Yet, even in the midst of the cold winter it seems, hope in God’s Mercy prevails like sunshine for me. Like all storms, hurt, sadness, and heartbreak, this feeling shall pass too. I am blessed; my parents gave me the best gift in life, a brother, a friend, a mate for life. I top his ‘priority list’. For me, his closeness above all shall suffice. His love and loyalty are also never-ending, everlasting, and amaranthine. And on this holy day, thinking of him, his wife and two beautiful children, with a smile on my face, I am feeling a lighter shade of Eid Holiday Blues.

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