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Amazing Grace

November 23, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

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

“I just want you to know that Jerry died today,” New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) Catholic Staff Chaplain called me in the Chapel office to inform me in a somber tone. I simply nodded and suppressed a rising lump in my throat. Exiting the office I felt numb.

COVID-19 pandemic had halted most of our prison activities including religious services and volunteers. With moderate decline in the infection rates, our religious services were gradually resumed with reduced capacity. However, no volunteers were allowed back in the institution. So, I was unable to see Jerry and our other volunteers since March. And now, I will never be able to see him. It hurt.

Later on that night, sitting alone in my cell I tried to play back the whole day’s events as per my usual norm. It is a habit of mine that I have developed over the years to rethink and gauge my actions of the day. A self imposed oversight perhaps to see how I can do better the next time around. But, this particular night I kept thinking about Jerry. Like an old reel of a film, our conversations kept repeating and I found myself smiling. It was so real.

I met Jerry in the NJSP Chapel a few years back. I work there as a chaplaincy clerk, and Jerry was one of the regular Catholic volunteers. Jerry was slender and of medium heigh. He had white cropped hair, neatly combed to the side with a pronounced part. – Just like the way my mother combed mine when I was young. Jerry had kind eyes and a friendly demeanor. But, most of all, he was normal, unpretentious, a trait I loved dearly.

Jerry had a way of talking that was no nonsense, matter of fact. Leaving the superficial sanctity and ambiance of the prison Chapel aside, Jerry would openly curse; Of course, when the occasion called for it. And I would crack up because he would often leave the other person confounded. It usually happened when Jerry, a staunch Democrat, was lambasting the Republicans and the presidential shenanigans. The best part was when Jerry quoted Rachel Maddow. If you have seen the Shawn Hannity and Laura Ingram types from the Fox News world, well, I can tell you this much from personal observation, they had nothing on Jerry and his MSNBC rhetoric.

Every Friday like clockwork, Jerry would makes his rounds with other Catholic volunteers to the lockdown units of NJSP to see men he didn’t know personally. He would pass out religious literature, Catholic or not it didn’t matter, because in reality he wasn’t there for proselytizing. You see, men and women like Jerry are driven with a baser instinct. It is called humanity.

Over some years, I got to know Jerry well. On his return from his rounds, he would often pull up a chair and sit next to me while I typed on my computer making participants lists for religious services. At other times, Jerry would skip the housing unit visits and spend the entire time with me. We talked about religion, prison, politics, life, and of course his boat and fishing – the second love of his life. Because, his true love was his companion of a life time, his wife, whom he simply referred to as, “My Grace.”

“She will like you Tariq.” He would say with a wry smile. And I would simply nod in reply. He told me how much he loved her and how she kept him grounded. “She is my anchor,” Jerry said once. “And you are the boat,” I replied with pun intended. He smiled and said, “A lost boat. She manages to keep me in check.”

Over the years, I have learned that life is like a journey on a swift river. We are like driftwood floating on that river to an uncertain end. Every now and then, other debris runs into us and we get to float together for a while. Later, the swift current and waves separate us. In the journey of our lives, beginnings and end are not important at all; it is about the journey itself. And to find good companions along the way, well, that is what makes it all a fun trek at the end.

I am grateful for Jerry’s company. During those ephemeral moments in the Chapel, floating together, he taught me a thing or two about being a human. I also developed a love for boats, got to know the difference between aft and port, flounder and snapper, and the freedom of the sea. He also encouraged me to continue writing. – Yes, I wish I had met Jerry and his Grace in a different setting, but I am just glad for the time I had with him.

Today, watching the conclusion of our presidential election with the victory of Joseph Biden as the 46th President if the United States, Jerry’s face flashed before my eyes and I smiled. Later on, sitting outside in the “Big Yard” of the NJSP, I looked up at the bright blue sky as the sun glared down making this November afternoon feel as if a summer day. I could almost picture Jerry on that boat of his, floating on heavenly clouds, sitting with a cold drink in hand, kicking back with a line in the water, swaying on oscillating waves.

For a moment, it all made me feel melancholy, yet in it there was happiness too. Meeting Jerry was beyond special for me, a prisoner condemned to life behind bars. In here, the life I live is by design made to dehumanize. And, it is people like Jerry who renew the hope for the deplorable folk like us that there are those in the society who believe and champion the cause of mercy and redemption. For that and much more, I will miss Jerry more than I can express. I wish I had a chance to thank him for making me feel, … human.

So, thank you Jerry. Till next time I suppose, until then, I shall often think of you, our time together, your humanity, and most of all, I shall pray for the true love of your life: Amazing Grace.

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Sweet Memories

November 23, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

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

My food package just arrived. The New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) allows all prisoners who remain charge/infraction free for a year to order an “Incentive Food Package” from an outside approved vendor. If you are charge free then you can order up to sixty (60) lbs, otherwise they slash the weight. Prices are extremely expensive but that is a subject for another day.

Carrying the two large cardboard boxes from the center bubble of my housing unit to the location of my second level cell, I could literally feel the eyes of my fellow prisoners following my every foot step. I smiled knowingly as it is a norm for everyone to “eye-hustle” when someone gets a food package.

One of my Muslim brothers yelled out, “Tariq, send them Cotton Candies down, Insha’Allah (God Willing).” Another brother replied even loudly, “Yeah, you can Insha’Allah some-else brother. You KNOW he ain’t givin them Cotton Candies up for Nothin!”

LAUGHTER

Yes, everyone who knows me well enough in NJSP is aware of the fact that I like Cotton Candy. And I am OK with that. You see, Cotton Candy is a universally understood statement of happiness. A ‘gesture’ that automatically places a smile on everyone’s face. – Look at yourself in the mirror, you are smiling RIGHT NOW! – It is a ‘feeling’ that makes you giddy, and perhaps even silly. In it as much that if you went out for fun and had Cotton Candy, you can bet your bottom dollar, that you will forever remember that outing.

Growing up in Pakistan, pre-teen years, I remember eating Cotton Candy, called “Luch-aa” in Urdu, from the street vendors who went from door to door in our neighborhood. They would loudly announce their presence as they passed through the alleyway, referred to as a “Gully” in Pakistan. As if a wolf, playing my Atari videogames in our drawing room, my ears would perk up and I would dash down the stairs, past the verandas and shrubbery of my house, running into one of our beloved housemaids, Preeto Baji, then crossing the painted white wrought iron door to reach the parking lot, there after carefully clearing my mother’s blue Nissan Charade and my aunt’s white Suzuki 800 hatchback, I would finally turn left towards the Gully.

“Slow down Tariq,” some neighbor or family member would scream. But, as I ran, or floated in the air, I only heard the chirping of birds as there were so many sparrows, quails, crows, and parrots in Lahore. Ignoring all people and birds, I would look for the vendor. And as always, I would find him under the shade of a Poplar tree at the mouth of the Gully. He would be standing there with his makeshift strewn-straw made dais upon which he had that plastic see-through box containing the colorful stacks of Cotton Candy.

“There you are Haneef”, I would say smiling as I reached into my pocket to pull out the two rupees to make my purchase.

“Only for you Tariq Bhai (Brother),” he would say with his sincere smile. I would then take my colorful bundles of happiness and enjoy them one pinch at a time, standing on the second story veranda of our House watching people go and birds fly by, wondering if Heaven had Cotton Candy for clouds.

Good days!

A time, etched in my memory.

Years later, in my late teens in New York, I would go to Coney Island often. I remember riding the Cyclone – The best rollercoaster in the world – and then walking down the boardwalk with my friends from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long island. We would do what boys of that age do best, gawk and mess with the beautiful girls all around, picking fights, and then look for some thing to eat. Among all the food options, from Nathan’s and the ice cream on the boardwalk, it was a rather hard choice to make. But, for me, it was always simple.

“You want some pizza, or hotdogs?” Someone would ask and then I would look around to always find the colorful puffs of joy up ahead as if a hanging rainbow. They beckoned me to come, and I followed and floated in the air as if under an enchantment.

Just like days in Pakistan, Coney Island boardwalk was also full of people, seagulls and other birds. Once again, ignoring all people and birds, I drifted towards the vendor. And just like Haneef in Lahore, the vendor in New York also received me with the, “Only for you Tariq,” sincere smile. I would then take my potpourri bundles of happiness and enjoy them one pinch at a time, while sitting on a wooden post watching the people on the beach, the waves lapping on the pier, and the humongous cargo ships in the bay, wondering if Heaven had Cotton Candy for clouds.

Good days!

Another time, etched in my memory.

Nowadays, in prison, I open my food package boxes and after putting away all my “goodies”, I crawl next to my window and looking at the bright blue sky, the pigeons, the sparrows, and the hawks of Trenton, I enjoy eating my Heavenly clouds one pinch at a time, thinking of days past, hoping, and praying, for yet more good days to come. And perhaps, another good memory.

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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

As a prisoner, watching the social upheaval all across the country from within these prison walls is a surreal feeling. Every new police shooting or episode of abuse spilling out on national media creates another awkward moment in my day to day interaction with the police.

When I travel through the prison building, the watchful gaze of the lined uniformed officers in their black helmets, bulletproof vests over blue shirts, and black riot batons, provides an almost infernal ambiance. They watch us prisoners, and we watch them uneasily, both sides knowing the truth, or farce, of it all.

Jacob Blake is yet another addition to that awkwardness. As with other such “newsmaker” events, the Wisconsin episode also has our prison-chatter buzzing with the present travesty. And once again, walking about the prison complex, I notice the gawking eyes of the guards. A select few seem almost ashamed, yet the others, a majority perhaps, seem indifferent. And then there are the eyes that almost glare as if to taunt.

The 13 inch screen TV in my cell is usually turned-on to escape the lunacy of it all that I call life behind bars. To me, the usual political coverage on TV is more likely entertainment. It’s like watching the Olympics every four years. I get excited about a select few events, say the selection rumble of the opposition candidate, the RNC/DNC Conventions, the subsequent nationally televised debates and, then for finale, the election night theatrics. The “Presidential Inauguration” event is more like a Pro-Bowl or All-Star game. Mostly, I try to stay aloof.

Yet, with the advent of Donald Trump, I must admit that things have gotten a bit more ‘Reality-TV-esque’. Politics has rarely been so affective and effective in my life. Say what you want about Trump, he surely has changed the fabric of our society. So much so that even in this hidden labyrinth encased behind castle walls, I feel his presence everywhere. I can’t say that about any other politician in my life.

New Jersey Department of Corrections “NJDOC” policy prohibits any political advertising or symbols on its premises and further forbids its employees from engaging in political activity while at work. Yet, that policy is more of a textual nature. The true reality is that the Prison Authorities have discarded their duty of overseeing the political tenor of its employees, because political slogans and rhetoric have become a norm for a lot of its officers.

For example, wearing a mask has become a bone of contention for a lot of NJDOC staff. A lot of Corrections Officers, commonly referred to as “C.O.s”, openly declare COVID-19 to be a “Hoax”. One particular C.O. cringed at my mention of the COVID related death toll and stated, “Those numbers ain’t true MaQbool. The fucking State Government gets money from our ‘Feds’ for every Corona death. That is why they are making the numbers so high. It’s all about money and politics to make Trump look bad.”

Another C.O., who is well known to profess his love and affinity for Trump openly, proudly showed me his “Make America Great Again” T-shirt under his blue uniform shirt and even produced a matching “MAGA” red hat that he kept under his vest.

Others openly talk degradingly about the former President Obama, Vice President Biden, Governor Bill Murphy, and Mrs. Clinton. And words like “liberals”, “socialist”, and “radicals” are common tongue epithets in here.

Interestingly, prior to this year, no one in the Prison Administration really cared for the prisoners’ political thoughts or views. And no former protest, “March”, movement, or prior elections ever incurred even a raised eyebrow from the prison authorities.

But, this election cycle appears very different, there seems to be a concerted effort in ‘making things clear’ for us prisoners.

You see, a few years ago we were given cable on prison TV. The service was actually paid for by the prisoners collectively through a Prison Welfare Account. Since the approval of the cable we have been trying to get more channels activated that come with our basic cable package. The common request was for more channels like Travel Channel, HBO, NFL Network, MSG, and other such sport and entertainment related options. Not once, however, were there any problems with political channels. We were given the regular Cable News set of FOX News, FOX Business, CNN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN. There were also local PBS and news channels. Suffice it to say that there was more than enough politics related material that anyone in the prison population cared for.

Then, things seemingly started to change with President Trump’s election. And with the start of this year 2020, things changed rapidly. The arrival of COVID-19 and the social upheaval changed the dynamics of our political scene outside and affected and restricted our lives inside. The constant scrutiny of law enforcement and the inflammatory political rhetoric has caused an enormous shift in the attitude of the NJDOC uniformed Junta.

This year, this summer, for the very first time, the NJDOC Administration inexplicably added far-right leaning channels such as One America Network (OAN), and Newsmax to the prison viewing without any request. An officer told me that it was to keep the ‘balance’ to show that there are ‘alternative’ views as well. He ended his explanation with the words “Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter.”

It has been a few weeks since I heard those comments but I am still stunned by his response. You see the obvious juxtaposition of having majority Black and minority prison population being presented with such bigoted content is beyond my scope of comprehension. But, then again, living in the era of Donald J. Trump, with all its other “new” things, this too is becoming a new normal.

So, to escape this lunacy, this time around, I find myself turning off my 13 inch TV screen. Time for a good book I suppose.

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Endurance

October 12, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

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

Every year as soon as my calendar’s page is flipped to the month of August, I feel a tinge of anxiety creeping up in the pit of my stomach. You see, August marks the anniversary of my arrival in New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) some 16 years ago.

Sitting by my slim plexiglass window at midnight, looking out at the dark cloudy sky alone, I find myself searching for my friends, my favorite stars. Over some years now, they have been my silent and loyal companions. Although the clouds have ruined quite a few meetings but it’s all right, I enjoy them too. They sort of provide a veil to my sorrow and add to the melancholy ambiance.

Then it happens, as if in a trance, the clouds seem to open and I can see that day as vividly as I can see the stars glinting through the cloak of haze. I can still see that young Tariq entering inside these thick castle walls; a young man who couldn’t even begin to understand the depth of this incessant vacuity. A place that is a bit more than just a never ending lesson in evil, prejudice, and despair.

An utter torment!

Prison environment is fueled by hate, open racism, and blatant bigotry among other reprobate vices. But when it comes to torture, not a day goes by that I don’t get to realize that it can get worse.

My saga began in October, 2002, in the county jail where I first got introduced to select catch phrases for a Muslim captive in America. I guess the events of 9-11 provided a Carte Blanche to the jailers towards someone who represented the physical traits and ancestral links to the perceived “enemy”.

Yet, I endured.

In 2005, after losing trial, my first stop during my transfer to NJSP was at the ‘Central Receiving Facility’ called “CRAF””. I heard his voice while being stripped after getting off the NJDOC transportation bus, AKA the “Blue Bird”:

“That’s him!”
“Oh yeah, you sure though, cause he looks like he’s Spanish or something.”
“Nah, that’s him. I bet you. He is the ‘real-deal’. I can spot them good.”
“Fuck him. Fuck’em all. He is here now.”
[Laughter]

Upon hearing their manifest racist rant, I can’t properly share in words what I felt in that vulnerable moment. You see, getting stripped is probably the most humiliating thing a human being encounters in prison. An exercise devised specifically to dehumanize, a gift of the western society, an ode to its inglorious days of slavery.

With modern day technology, especially with full body scanners at the airports in mind, I don’t understand why human beings still have to be stripped as animals.

Anyhow, later on, I saw the ‘one’ who could “spot” me “good” and was rather enticed by my arrival. He was standing next to the property desk waiting with my Qur’an in his hand, which had taken liberty to leaf through intensely as if it was something”dangerous”:

“You … where the fuck are you from?
“Here,” I answered.
“Fuck that, where are you really from?”
“Lived in New York before that.”
“No, motherfucker, you know what I’m saying. You got ‘this’ [Qur’an] in your property. You ain’t from New York.”

I just looked at him. I wanted to say a few things, but after almost three years in county jail I knew well enough what will take place had I shared my ‘feelings’ with him. So, he stood there smirking that smirk.

Yet, I endured.

My first day in NJSP was memorable as well. Once again, after getting disrobed the umpteenth time, I was taken to the infamous “6 Wing”, where I was temporarily housed in a cell on the bottoms tier. The room was probably 6*6*7, walls of metal, with a literal ‘hole-in-the-wall’ type toilet, and a cell door that was made of iron bars. It was a claustrophobic grave-like feeling as there were no windows in the cell. And without any fans the humid August heat was beyond intolerable.

It reminded me of a dog shelter I visited where I saw a large Rottweiler locked up in a similar small cage with bars for a door, only if I could whimper.

Yet, I endured.

Upon my arrival, within the first half hour multiple corrections officers, referred to as “C.O.s”, started to come and peek into my cell looking for a “real terrorist”. Being looked at through the bars reminded me of that dog, and I finally learnt the perspective of that poor animal.

Anyways, after a while, a Sergeant came and put an end to the “viewing”.

What started that day has morphed into a norm over the past sixteen years or so. Almost everyday of my life in here, I have heard things like, “Osama, you are going to die here motherfucker.” “Why did you guys do it?” “Watch that motherfucker. They love blowing shit up.” “What was your job that [9-11] day?” “Check his shoes real good. They just caught his cousin on the plane with a shoe bomb.” “So, in your country do they shout Allah-Akbar all day?” “How many of the terrorist do you know?” “How many family members you got in the Taliban?” “Taliban!” “Isis!” “Your ethnicity doesn’t help.” [A reason given to me by a Sergeant for repeatedly singling me out for searches called “Shake-Downs”] And, “C’mon man, you know you guys prefer this way.” – [An officer mimicked pulling a string, a not-so-subtle hint towards a suicide bomber] Etc.

Yet, I endured

Without any real oversight, NJDOC officers have unchecked authority over prisoners. Among them, it is somehow understood that it is an accepted behavior to make such comments, an exercise in jest so to speak.

At times, when I hesitantly complain, I am told that I am being too sensitive. But, to be sure, if any one of the earlier mentioned remarks was uttered in a corporate setting or for that matter to even a civilian or custody employee of the State of New Jersey, it would lead to termination and lawsuits galore. But, to a prisoner, a convicted felon, the scum of the earth, it is all kosher.

Yet, I endure.

Every year at a similar midnight, I ask The Almighty to let this be the last year of my captivity. Over the years my alienation has grown steadily. With the current state of our politics and the incompressible ‘Blue Wall’ and its supporters in the Judicial System, media, and political arenas, I am often reminded that prison is place yet darker still. And before and after conviction means a status even lower on the scales of humanity, something just above the border of animal and beastly existence; a rather oscillating boundary between the realms.

Then, as always, in the midst of my despondency my twinkling friends come to my rescue with a joyful smile and a promise of a better day to come. They remind me of the Mercy of GOD Almighty. I then pray, hope, and yearn to receive it.

Till that day, I shall endure.

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Say Her Name

October 1, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

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

I laughed out loud watching Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron on TV as he announced the Grand Jury’s decision in NOT indicting the three Louisville police officers that had entered Breonna Taylor’s apartment, and shot her to death firing six bullets into her body.

I laughed because the whole thing seemed comical to me. You know the whole charade of “justice” and “search of facts” and “not emotions” masquerade that the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s highest law enforcement officer belched out on the national media. A ‘Top-Cop’ who happens to be black, and was ‘by chance’ selected to speak at the recent RNC Convention. He skillfully overlaid the dirty underbelly of the American Justice System. In doing so, he affirmed the two different and distinct methods of applying the laws, one way for the law enforcement, and the other for black, brown, minorities and similar unfortunates.

The Kentucky A.G., also quite masterfully, went on to actually praise the law enforcement while at the same time lectured the protestors and the so called “outsiders” on civics.

For Breonna Taylor’s family, his message was crystal clear, ‘nothing to see here folks, the shooting of your daughter was justified!

I laughed, and shook my head.

The whole sham of it makes me laugh, as I am wiser over the years. I have seen the reality of pain, sorrow, and disappointment. Knowing and experiencing so much hardship and rigors through the gnawing grind of the American Justice System, it has all become easy for me. I am an expert at such hypocrisies and adept at tragedies.

Because, in the end, that is what comedy is all about: Tragedy over time!

During his long press conference, A.G. Daniel Cameron kept on insisting that he was driven by facts and that he kept emotions out of it. Yet, his colloquy reminded me of something that Maya Angelou once said, that “There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.”

Truth of the matter is that ‘facts’ can be manipulated, and it is often the case when police officers are involved in any sort of wrongdoing. Because, when it comes to the law enforcement, all bets are off, and they are given every possible avenue and benefit that the law can possibly require, or aspire. For others, well, they are referred to as “others” for a reason!

I still remember vividly, after receiving my Grand Jury transcripts, I sat on my bunk in the cell on the infamous “D-Block”, D5W, of the Hudson County Correctional Facility, thinking is this a joke. The prosecutor had presented “select” items to my Grand Jury while eliminating anything that could remotely be considered mitigating. I was dumbfounded. Because a whole lot of it was pure fabrication and lies by officers of law who apparently took oaths before the jury members and then went on to falsely testify.

I protested to my attorney, requested, and begged her to challenge the indictment. In response she told me that “we will fight at trial” and that the “Grand Jury stuff is useless”, it doesn’t matter because “they can indict a ham sandwich if they wanted to.”

True indeed! A.G. Cameron could also have indicted the three officers involved in Breonna’s death; But Top-Cops don’t go after their own ‘hams’.

The Grand Jury process in the United States is a mockery and travesty of justice. You see in these “closed doors” and “secret” proceedings, the prosecutor can present anything that he sees fit. They are literally allowed to cherry-pick evidence and narrative of their own choosing.

Daniel Cameron’s discarding the testimony of Breonna’s immediate neighbour’s testimony, and the corroborating statements of other witnesses, and his reliance on the account of a single “White” witness’s account, which he provided after two previous contradicting statements, speaks volumes about Cameron’s intentions.

I can go on and on about this present episode of injustice, but I shall digress. My only message to Mr. Daniel Cameron and men of his ilk is simple, you can put all the lipstick on a pig, at the end it will remain what it is, a pig!

I often find people confused about the subject of Criminal Justice and Policing Reforms. I believe the problem is that our society as a whole has sort of subcontracted our conscience and objectivity when it comes to minorities. You see, it seems that our conscience and objectivity only comes alive when a police officer is involved in an incident such as Breonna’s death. All care is poured into his defense and then the public is reassured that all is well and that the “system” is working. My question to the ‘confused’ is very simple, if the system only works for the select few with badges and fails the millions who are behind bars, then what sort of a problem do you see afoot?

Kentucky’s A.G., Daniel Cameron, ended his press conference with the plain words, “God Bless”. I was stunned by his humbug righteousness. This man who stood before the national media being pejorative, and maligning people who are simply trying to raise issues of Social Justice, couldn’t see through his own sanctimonious bull-crap. And couldn’t bring himself to just say her name: BREONNA!

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Heartache of a Clown

September 19, 2020 | Prison | Incarceration | Inmates | No Comments

Author: Paul “Goo-Goo” Williams # 000224338A | 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 laugh day after day
Laughing makes time pass away

I laugh from six to nine and nine to nine
Laughing sleep away as I purse my line

I laugh so hard, and yet, so low,
I could hear the silent within, and cold winds blow

I could hear the lions roar, the sounds of birds
And the cries of people behind closed doors

Weariness captures my verbal sounds
While I reveal the story of “Heartache of a Clown”

I who was tried for a homicide and possession of a knife
Was convicted and sentenced, now opposed by life

The conscious story from the inner mind
Reveals the true story of why I’m doing time

Now I sit and laugh sadness away
Yet, trying to forget, tomorrow is another day

I even laugh at the sight of death
I laugh so hard, I barely catch my breath

I laugh with a laugh, and laugh with a growl,
Yet, you never see me without a grin or a smile

I laugh even when I should be sad
It isn’t my intention, but merely my fad

I even laugh at myself…
From fear of laughing at anyone else

I hide within my sadness
It keeps me sane and controls my madness

See, the ‘make-up’ isn’t here
But the laugh is what I wear

And after a day of laughing
Begins a night of crying

And after a night of crying
Begins another day of laughing…

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A Collaboration By: Tariq MaQbool SBI#000830758C; And
Kory “Hussain” McClary SBI#000573398C

COVID took my guy, six thirty in the mornin
My boy, my dude … died
Breathing hard, struggling
he gave up right there in that bed
Tubed up, cooped up, sippin
the Reaper’s tea
They diggin his grave, so that he may rest
My breathin’s heavy, like a rock on my chest

Shit jokers plan, dusk till dawn
mornin till night
never ever knowin
where the sickle might smite
Rollin through the life
as if a broken kite
Still,
this shit ain’t right
Gotta chill, let this slide
like every other bullshit in here
brotha just gotta fight
Need a break, a little mental like

“Yo, Hussain, you down wit this workout right?”

“Got this my brother, Yo Akhi, chill aight!”
“Let’s get to the ‘Graveyard’,
we just gotta get our mind right”

* * * * *

SPARRING in the Prison Big Yard
A Graveyard where gangstas are laid to rest
Shadow Boxing in a cemetery, full of tombless plots
Bobbing and weaving, side stepping and jabbing
The ghost that float above, excavate the Earth
The Earth to which they must return
but refuse to go
Ducking and hooking the air,
the air copiously filled with demons
The specter of a gangstas pass …

MOVE!

ROPE-A-DOPING on the side of a mausoleum
Maneuvering away from a zombie’s bite
The dead want a nigga, these evil forces tormentin
Wantin a nigga’s soul on site
to dwell in hell forever like
Mentally ducking,
wondering if the Mind’s Eye is
playing with reality,
Un-seeable?
Or is this total misery and wretchedness,
absolute and,
unchangeable???

MOVE!

JOGGING through the Graveyard where
the forgotten rest
Viewing the nameless headstones with trepidation,
beads across the forehead, shimmering cold sweat
The dissonant howl of a wolf fills the air
A Werewolf!
A translucent spirit flickers the peripheral sphere
it converges, quickly
Running from death, chasing the full moon
A rat’s skeleton scurries on spurs
A cat roars a shrieking purr
A black cat!
A woman’s grating scream comes from beneath the Earth

RAIN DROPS …

Terror grips the soul
Chills grab the flesh
A light jog turns into a heavy dash

SPLASH!

Death is whistling, Life is silent
A man draped in black hooded cloak, appears
seeming violent!
Grimm Reaper?
Final destination?
The precise truth remains elusive
Death shall remain, however, exclusive

MOVE!

JUMPING ROPE in a Graveyard
where real niggas are dead, but still
alive
Where Life means digging ya own grave,
and jumping on top of the headstone till Death
arrives
Where Life means forever, and Death is coveted
In this Graveyard, Life’s smell is putrid
and Death smells sweet
In here,
Life is Death or Death is Life
Life is jumping rope in front of ya plot,
until Death did y’all apart from your misery
Death is precious,
precise
and Life is a Groundhogs Day ball of anguish
But fuck it!
This is where the gangstas is at … a prison!

STOP!!!

* * * * *

Breathing heavy, sighs slowed to a cadence
“How you feelin?”
“Doin good my brother, though I’m still reelin”

Casting shadows in the Graveyard like
Brothers Grimm
Life got many avenues, but in here
they slim

Still gotta get to feelin normal
soon
Can’t be dealin with this impendin
doom
It’s getting darker …
Soon it will turn to
gloom
Still feelin heavy
Melancholy
Carryin a dead man’s tune!

* * * * *

“Come my brother,
you wit me?
Once more around this mothafucka!”

MOVE!

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Life’s Junction

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

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

Life has a junction, over and over
a repeating lunacy
without adieu
simple in nature, yet subtle
chaotic and sad, yet utopian too

Words run amuck with random thoughts
as always,
they ring loud, and simply true
a damp spirit, with a purple hue

Ruthless characters with evil eyes
surrounding gardens, where hope ensues
its sorrow and pain
in every sight
no happiness or reprieve in any pew

Facts blurred by the virtue of evil
crafts of deceit emerge from the devil
eyeing a goal of eternal oblivion
it’s you, it’s I, stuck in the cycle
round and round of iniquity vile!

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Author: Kory “Hussain” McClary # 000573398C | 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

“Hello” from the other side of the concrete and razor wire wall. A man is trapped behind the wall, calling out to anyone who is listening.

“Hello, hello, could you get me out of here.”

Man down, man in distress, castaway. A man’s life is slowly but surely slipping away while he is trapped behind this concrete and razor wire wall.

His ‘hellos’ are all met with echoes. It’s an empty vast canyon behind this wall where only the soulless dwell.

“Hello”, it seemed as if he was calling out to himself. This man did not want to become one of the lost souls forgotten about so he shouted his ‘hello’ from the others side of the wall loader.

“Hello”, but still only an echo.

This man wondered if anyone realized that there was a man snared behind this wall. Did anyone care that this man had loved ones to get home to. Little ones to guide. He had a mother to hug, a wife to love, sisters and brothers waiting to receive his brotherly smile. A father he needed to embrace and a mother he needed to kiss… .

“Hello”, he could hear the traffic promenading the other side of the wall. So he roared his ‘hello’. The response was only a roar of an echo.

He was being ignored and left to be what he dreaded, a soulless shell. Why? He was a man who made mistakes like those on the others side of the wall ignoring him.

He was sorry for his mistakes. Only if someone would listen and let him explain.

“Hello, hello, could you get me out of here.”

The man knew that the concrete and razor wire wall was impervious. Unclimbed, never to be breached, and the sole witness to his trap.

Only if he screamed louder, someone would have to answer him.

“Hello”, just another echo.

Too many screams turned this man voiceless. His calls caused him to be further entangled.

Muted!

No voice, so the man on the other side of the wall wrote. He wrote his pain in the form of an ‘SOS’; placed it in a bottle and threw it away over the concrete and razor wire wall. Somehow the bottle was returned undisturbed. The man refused to let his hope in humanity slip away. So he threw the bottle back over the concrete and razor wire wall.

Still there was no responses or help. The bottle was returned, note still intact. His ‘hello’ from the other side of the wall could not be reciprocated. His pen was broke.

Now the man cried. Tears of pain, shame, and remorse ran down his face.

His hands were cuffed behind his back, his legs were shackled. And his mouth was gagged. Only his tears flowed freely, allowing this man behind this wall in this barren place to know that he still had a soul. A soul that yearned to be free… .

“Hello!”

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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

In recent days, the news around the country, once again, is filled with Corona Virus related issues. The obvious result of the pandemic taking space on the airwaves is reduced focus on the protests for social justice.

The death of Congressman John Lewis highlighted for me that the wheel of time turns without any hitch. The death of yet another stalwart of our social justice movement further stressed the importance of that special cause and the need for change now. It seems that we keep losing our Nation’s heroes without any actual progress. Truly, the days of Selma seem virtually unchanged in a lot of aspects of our culture.

In my humble opinion, the problem of taking the ‘eyes off the ball’ remains the main issue towards any required change.

The Black Lives Latter Movement, and others whom are protesting for systematic changes to our Criminal Justice System, Social Justice, and Policing Reforms seem disjointed and without structure.

Charles Barkley recently made rounds on the sports talk shows following a “Tweet” criticizing the ‘Protest Movement’ for being without organization and being too focused on simplistic and meaningless symbolism; and being bogged down with pointless arguments such as what ‘labels’ athletes place on their jerseys.

I submit that, the Hall of Fame Basketball player rightly criticized and tried to bring attention to the actual and real issues rather than just wordplay.

This ‘loosing of focus’ is becoming the hallmark of the recent Protest Movements where the message is getting lost due to ‘other’ unrelated issues. For example, Collin Kapernik’s taking the knee was hijacked by President Trump’s ‘dog whistle’ of being anti-flag, anti-American, and being un-patriotic. Kapernik himself muddled his message by being silent and seemingly without any strategy others than suing the NFL.

Charlottesville, Ferguson, and other similar protests were marred by ‘us v. them’ politics, violence, and pointless rhetoric that resulted in the status quo.

Even now, although the post George Floyd murders protests seem different, I submit, without proper national organization and strategy, there will be no results. With COVID-19 struggles and dirty politics, the goal of change appears more chaotic and unachievable.

In the same vein, the United States Supreme Court in recent days struck yet another blow to the requested and demanded change by ruling against a challenge to one more bias, racist, and unfair state voting law that disqualified ex offenders from voting. This ruling further highlighted the need to get together and to speak with one voice. Rather than random protests, center of attention should be on national unity and approach.

Where the highest ‘Halls of Justice’ seem to signal that the fundamental rights of an American citizen to vote are forfeited in perpetuity due to a simple run-in with the law, a clear message is sent that even the most basic of rights are not going to be afforded to a citizen, specially the one of a darker hue.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is akin to injustice in itself. Where a segment of society in this country is told that you are forever a subservient class! The decision has yet another dangerous precedent of Apartheid like reality for the minority of this country.

Thus, Charles Barkley’s Tweet and advice should be taken seriously by those who actually want change, reform, and a better just and equal tomorrow for all Americans regardless of their color and creed.

I would suggest and urge the Protest Movement all over the country to organize in State entities and focus on struggle and efforts that are particular to the need of each State in this Union.

Without such focus, the death of George Floyd and countless others and the resulting Movement will fizzle out. To make change, we must Organize, Strategize, and Implement!

Otherwise, it’s all for naught.

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