A reflection on the inspirational legacy a terminal cancer patient left on the man who pushed his wheelchair around prison.

By Frank Garcia

Growing up, I always liked giving people a hand. It feels good to help out. I’ve been an Americans with Disability Act worker for the past three years at Lancaster State Prison. In that time, I’ve assisted many individuals in need. I always feel sad to hear that one of my guys, whose wheelchair I have pushed, has died. I think of the conversations we shared, the hopes and dreams they told me about of what they…

Prison strips people’s identity down to a dehumanizing series of digits. A prisoner takes exception. A poem By Lester L. Polk.

I may be known as a number


An unknown entity

to those charged with cataloguing and warehousing me

but actually I am a creative, sentient being.

To some, I am the seventy-second thousand, eight hundredth person to fall

into the trench of the hotel series of lost causes.


But I am a source of volcanic vision, wanted and unwanted.

I am the strength of a geyser, the force of a hurricane.

I am the truth that will…

A reflection by Daniel Whitlow

The Elephants by Salvador Dali (1948)

Young Daniel: (enters smiling) Hi Dan! You wanted to talk to me?

Old Daniel: Yes, I did. Please have a seat.

YD: (plops down on chair) Is everything okay?

OD: (shakes head slightly) Not really. I need you listen to me. You support me in times of need and I need you to listen to my darkness. Hear the bitterness I have lived with for so many ears and feel how deep it ran within me. I must say things, confusing things, so I may move past them, so I can learn to live with…

Finding unity in defiance. A poem by Daniel Whitlow

The First Days of Spring by Salvador Dali (1929)

The penitent man —

whose face blossoms as his knees wilt —

rejects happiness by persuading isolation to mend his hurts, the daily ache of exclusion,

How quick his lips defy trite trivialities;

how sure his mind denies invisible calamities —

painful trauma memories force violent root in his naive future,

Our world;

with its axioms and cliches and slogans and constant attempts to fit the perfect words into every breath and

its need to sell itself, to motivate, to inspire, to advertise, to whore —

with legs open and lazy…

The difficulty of keeping hope alive. A poem by Daniel Whitlow

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1952–54)

hope is only a childhood dream —

barely remembered in twilight,

pressed flat by desperation and Insecurities’ vicious gravity,

strength bleached with blood loss —

in times of drowning, it is my breath;

in endless corridors of solitude —

only utter collapse reveals outright truth,

like strands of disbelief clinging to vapor absolution,

limbs doubting annihilation of the body —

it is my companion;

when the sun is dead, when pretense is past tense —

your skulking mockery yields abscess scars,

bridled dynasties of subordinate slave fingers, flayed and…

A poem of conquering hopelessness by Daniel Whitlow

Ship with Butterfly Sails by Salvador Dali (1937)

I have discovered the cure for myself —

in this disconnected wasteland of shuffling,

muffled footsteps, and bloodless, ashen faces;

the ubiquitous scarab-beetle-skittering-across-my-brain is a product of habit,

a sadistic compulsion I cannot control,

a therapy to alleviate my burden on the world —

this is how it feels;

a remedy for the space I consume —

the darkness covers but does not break us

with lonely, cold concrete helplessness,

an existence without life, without color,

embrace obstinacy: refuse to accept nothingness and regret as everything,

the anguish of our circumstance is…

A poem about the effect of bitterness on the spirit by Daniel Whitlow

Bacchanale by Salvador Dali Z(1939)

I hardly ever smile anymore but not because I don’t want to —

I wash away long days of personal sedition

by scowling at distorted messages drawn in a scarred-glass face,

finger-traced constructs of mirror-reflected negativity

winding tedious epitaphs in cohering dust,

hanging from reproachful words meant to condemn and chastise,

to rebuke and renounce.

— I just can’t. I used to smile. I used to love laughing, but now —

I rinse away my perpetual litany of fallow principles

with the absurd belief that artifice is…

A poem about the nature of loyalty by Daniel Whitlow

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1931)

we are more than our dreams but nothing without them.

what hypocrites we are — raised to give praise to illusions and relics

and trumpets blaring brazen chords of summoning —

what are we really asking? when did we ever want the truth about anything?

no one knows when loyalty is finished —

seek the continuation of maggot-spoiled history, not the red-faced infancy of new opportunities —

it keeps capitalizing on weakness —

celebrate the exquisite decomposing geometry of cancerous, epidemic alienation —

it manipulates the absence in your heart…

A poem about hiding rejection and pity inside the cave of denial.

Napoleon’s Nose, Transformed into a Pregnant Woman, Strolling His Shadow with Melancholia amongst Original Ruins By Salvador Dali (1945)

By Daniel Whitlow

I spend the long hours hiding ,

from promised threats of pain,

a fool, a crude chiseled chump

— stooped back pressed so flat

against the safe wall of my cave,

in dump face, cool in the wind,

soothes sore spots out of reach,

settles nerves and carries sleep.

Before my sanctuary, I had to walk out in the open, beneath the bleak, affiliated harshness of sun and communal

scrutiny; society hates me — they know it does — they threw jagged rocks and insults…

A series of reflections about a former self by Frank Garcia.


Trapped, caged, no way out

Every day a burden on my shoulders

Concrete and metal is all I know

Memories flash me back to what was

The future looks bleak and desolate

Present day, I live but in dreams

Shattered delusions and broken promises

Hope is but a glimmering star in the dark

I wonder what they were all for, these feelings of rage

Love has become like grasping sand

The harder my grip

the more it escapes my hold.



A forum for fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry by students in the Men for Honor Writing Program at California State Prison-Los Angeles County.

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