Note: Italicized text was written by Andre Sheffield, 14, and Elord Revolte, 17, both killed while incarcerated in 2015.
On any given night that year, 47,000 children were incarcerated in the United States.
He waited a day. A day in his cell after
the other children beat him. The guards
paid them in sweets to erase themselves
into and against each other, at least
twelve of them – his chest blooming
in the shape of their feet. Privilege man /
gilty father / ask the lord come fight
the weather / Alone in his cell he waited
for the nurse, he asked for help, told them
when he felt his ribs fold in on themselves,
felt his lungs wrap his sternum, empty.
He told them and waited. gilty man
don’t say you matter/ He swallowed his teeth;
they snagged in the muscle of his heart, plasma
and water in his throat. Alone he became an earthquake;
his eyes bridges, collapsing. speak the evil you a sinner /
Where he grabbed at the air, it thickened, until
his fingers wrapped around it. A ladder. Alone
he climbed from his skin, up. When his hands
gave out, he let go midair, threw his head back,
opened his mouth, swallowed. son of god I’m just
a brother. By the time they arrived, a day late,
there was no cell, no body. Just an empty space
in the shape of forgetting.
this is the last time. I put it on God.
Found Text Sources
Burch, Audra D.S., and Carol Marbin Miller. “Cause of Death: ‘Lack of Empathy.’ Medical Neglect in Florida’s Juvenile Justice.” Miami Herald, 10 October 2017. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/florida-prisons/article
Charles, Jacqueline, and Carol Marbin Miller. “Slain Teen’s Dad: They Took Him Alive, Gave me back a Corpse.” Miami Herald, 3 September 2015. https://www. miamiherald.com/news/local/community/Miami-dade/article33868359.html?
Penney, Veronica, and Jay Weaver. “Ex-Guard at Juvenile Lockup Innocent of Orchestrating Fatal Beating of Teen.” Miami Herald, 23 July 2019. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article232583222.html