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Life Lines is an audio journal of poetry, spoken word, and other creative writing by men on Death Row, USA. Contributors live on Death Rows in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Life Lines is about connection. It’s about finding surprising spaces to share endangered, beautiful life. It’s about recognizing our power and our powerlessness to give and take life.

We feature three new pieces each week, words which we hope invite communion, however limited and imperfect, with those struggling to live inside state prisons.

Because of state laws restricting access to prisons, the authors record these poems by phone. As you listen carefully, let the line static become a reminder of all the lines – race, class, iron bars and barbed wire – we’ve constructed between ourselves. If we allow them, these pieces can open new, shared spaces for us in spite of these boundaries, if only for a moment. Take a chance with us: listen.

Life Lines Life Lines Collective

    • Maatschappij & cultuur

Life Lines is an audio journal of poetry, spoken word, and other creative writing by men on Death Row, USA. Contributors live on Death Rows in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Life Lines is about connection. It’s about finding surprising spaces to share endangered, beautiful life. It’s about recognizing our power and our powerlessness to give and take life.

We feature three new pieces each week, words which we hope invite communion, however limited and imperfect, with those struggling to live inside state prisons.

Because of state laws restricting access to prisons, the authors record these poems by phone. As you listen carefully, let the line static become a reminder of all the lines – race, class, iron bars and barbed wire – we’ve constructed between ourselves. If we allow them, these pieces can open new, shared spaces for us in spite of these boundaries, if only for a moment. Take a chance with us: listen.

    #105 A bucket of chicken

    #105 A bucket of chicken

    I could tackle the whole world like Atlas, with greasy lips and a full stomach.

    #104 Story of mine

    #104 Story of mine

    Every picture has the touch of a dream

    #103 Carrying my side of the plexiglass

    #103 Carrying my side of the plexiglass

    Almighty Creator, although I’m not worthy, grant me the peace of awakening within the warmth of all of your splendor.

    #102 Conversation with a dear friend

    #102 Conversation with a dear friend

     

    As Hurricane Florence drenched the Carolinas, life continued inside Raleigh Central Prison. There was no evacuation. As residents peered out of their slotted windows at the sky above, two of our contributors chatted about how to weather the storms that besiege them on death row. Bryan Bell relates this conversation with Elrico Fowler in a rare extemporaneous piece for Life Lines. What follows is an excerpt.


    We have to fight everyday against so many things. But the biggest fight of all is against ourselves. We struggle to be patient. We struggle to grow and learn more and more. We struggle to get home. And there are so many complications that come with that. People that wear the same jumpsuit as we wear. They just don’t have the same ideas as we do, but they have their own battles to fight.

    So what we came to find out, basically, is that life is worth living. There is no giving up. No matter what we have to do, we’re gonna fight. Based on what he said, it was like – well, what he calls me is blessed, that’s my nickname – he’s like, Blessed, no matter what comes our way, no matter what happens, no matter what the government does, no matter what type of weather comes our way, hurricanes, storms, or whatever, we can’t give up. He said I’m too smart, I told him he’s too smart. He told me I’m too strong, said he’s too strong.

    And then we talked about everyone else who has a red jumpsuit, that has a death sentence. It’s not an easy sentence to carry. It’s very heavy, as a matter of fact, because every day we have to force ourselves to get up. It’s easy to lay down and just say, hey, whatever happens, happens. But it’s hard to get up and say, hey, I’m gonna face this day until night comes, and then I’m gonna go to sleep, and then I’m gonna get up and do it all over again. Day in and day out of the same thing over and over and over and over. I mean, it’s a pain. It’s a pain in the ass, that is true, but you know, we do it. You gotta be strong. You gotta have a strong will to want to go on, and well, me and Elrico were speaking, and you know, that’s what we do. That’s what many of us do. We face death every day we fill with breath. We don’t like the feel of it, and biding time doesn’t really help. It’s not really on our side, and it’s not really against us. When you think about it, the breath of death and the tick of time, it’s just like they’re intertwined together. So it’s just like we’re going against both things. And I asked Elrico, How do you combat one while facing the other? And he’s like, You don’t. You just go head on through it. You be smart. You continue to read, you continue to write, you continue to do this, you continue to do that. And I’m like, aight, I’m gonna continue to write, I’m gonna continue to read… so that’s what I’ma do.

    And I’m gonna pass it on as much as I can. I don’t care how old dudes are in here or how young they are – cos there are some younger than me; I’m only 37, but there are some younger than me – but I’m gonna pass it on like it was passed on to me.

    Never give up. Whether you’re on this side of the wall or that side of the wall, no matter how hard things get. This is the worst of the worst. I doesn’t get no deeper than that. When you catch a death sentence, it’s the highest sentence you can get. But it’s aight. It’s gonna be aight. That’s what we said.

    You just gotta keep defending, you gotta believe. So long as you wanna do it, it’s gonna happen.

    As for me, I believe one day I’ll be home, one way or another. Every day I wake up, I say, yeah, you going

    #101 Breaking news

    #101 Breaking news

    I’ve watched the hole petrify pretense, making men fake forever

    #100 The timestretcher

    #100 The timestretcher

    It’s like having a pot dropped over your head and a wooden spoon is pounding the rhythm of the Star-Spangled Banner into your eardrums. You know the tune so well, but you just don’t want to hear it.

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