Dreams are an essentially human thing and having them taken away steals life. This piece is a subtle shout to Langston Hughes and his many references to dreams deferred. Here they are not just deferred but kept out at all costs, by the structure of the environment and by the culture inside.

I wrote this only a year into prison when I’d gotten the lay of the land, was still very depressed and after the sociologist in me had some time to analyze. As much of the punishment as anything is geared towards taking dreams, the delicate vessels of hope, away from people. And everywhere you look here, those pointed concertina coils scream at you, reminding you that you’re an animal to “them,” undeserving of dreams. The physical setting here is crucial and pointedly described.

-Taj Mahan-Haft


Most folks presume encompassing razor wire,

Topping countless layers of barrier

(metaphorical wedding cake of steel and demarcation),

Serves primarily to separate

Us “criminals” from “normal guys”

Those glinting, shredding doilies do separate, it’s true,

But not mainly for keeping in the deviants

Rather keep out every dream

Those delicate tendrils that nourish hearts  

Fragile glimpses of tomorrow

So readily intimidated by hopelessness and hate

The few bubbles of delightful possibility

The occasional sneak rogue of subconscious fantasy

Juking past grasps of fences’ barbed and reaching tentacles

Squeezing between the corrugated links,

Such morsels stand little chance of survival or recognition,

More likely snagged and disemboweled

(even if they make it in alive)

Upon shivs, scars, tongues, bigotry,

And other self-sharpened prison survival tools.

Have you ever seen a dream disemboweled, heard its silent cry?

Hung up on shiny, sharded coils

Dangling ephemeral viscera

Leaving empty of humanity the vessels caged inside.