Cartwheels in Prison Yards

By Walidah Imarisha

For Haramia KiNassor (Kenneth Foster Jr.)


8 hours before

he was scheduled to depart this earth

8 hours before

hope slipped away

it was rekindled

wild brush forest fire



his wife and I

ran into the prison


screaming and singing

his father laughed through tears

his grandfather just nodded

he had never lost the faith


supporters with signs meant to shame a nation

did cartwheels across the green grass

tended by captive hands

I would have joined them

if I knew how to cartwheel


instead I flung my body down

buried my face in an earth

that still understood some semblance of justice

spread my arms wide

and took up space


we reclaimed the prison that day

for once there was no shouts of

move along don’t loiter

no hands on guns

no eyes narrowed with hate and disdain

they knew we had won

And we were allowed this

our victory feast


even though they executed a man

the day before

even though they executed a man

the day after

every day that week

another candle extinguished between fingers dipped in red


but on the fifth day they didn’t rest

on the fifth day

we pushed them back

we roared their hands away from the switch

we shoved the needle out of his veins

with the blood pumping in ours

we broke restraints and twisted bars


we know it is not the end

but on the fifth day

8 hours before his execution

I did a somersault on the lawn of a prison

steeped in death


and smelled only the wild poppies