I’m always amazed at the popularity of poetry in prison. I love poetry and I admire those who write it, but I know I’m not a poet. I bring in poets to teach my class.

One of the poets saw things I had never noticed. This was in Wisconsin, a maximum security prison built in 1854. It had high stone walls.

Harvey Taylor wore his hair long and played a guitar. In the summer he operated a crane on the docks in Milwaukee. When the Great Lakes froze in winter, he spent his time writing poetry. Here is what he saw in the prison yard:

 Tree Tops


There’s no shortage of sunlight

In the hot prison yard.

Shade is another story. . .

just outside the high walls,

beyond the guard-towers,Waupun Prison

upper branches sway, and

leaves dance with the wind,

as, a mere bird-swoop away

from that green realm,

down inside the compound,

human beings somehow survive

season after season

with only the memory of

a miracle so commontree

it’s usually unappreciated:

seeing a tree rise out of the ground.

Imagine a world in which,

you never see anyone’s feet,

legs, torso, arms, face –

only fingertips,

and a few wisps of hair.



never looking

a tree in the eye.


Harvey TaylorAlong the Shore, by Harvey Taylor, page 17

Images courtesy of:


  1. Joanne says:

    Beautiful! When we do not have things it makes us appreciate them all the more.

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