Tales of regret and hope win in creative writing contest at the Alexandria Jail

In his award-winning poem “I Cry”, Anthony Talbert laments over being incarcerated in the Alexandria Jail.

“Growing up I was told that the eyes are the windows to the soul,” reads Talbert’s poem. “So I cry to cleanse my soul of all the torment it holds.”

The Alexandria Jail gives inmates a lot of time for abstract thought, and this week virtual awards were presented to their best writers in the third-ever creative writing contest. Thirteen participants, who ended up submitting 24 pieces of work, had a month to create a new piece of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

The event was conducted by Heard, a local nonprofit that works with inmates at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center and also the Arlington County Detention Center.

The judges for the contest were Mary Wadland, publisher of The Zebra Press, historian Char McCargo Bah, and Wendi Kaplan, the former poet laureate for Alexandria.

“We are extremely grateful for Heard’s continued outreach and engagement with those in our custody,” said Sheriff Dana Lawhorne. “Not only does the contest provide them with a creative outlet to express themselves, but it gives them the chance to have their voices carry out into the community and beyond.”

Awards were presented to the following inmates:

Poetry

  • First Place — Anthony Talbert for “I Cry”
  • Second Place — William Walsh for “Why Did You Leave?”
  • Third Place — S. Amir for “The Most Beautiful Battle”

Fiction

  • First Place — Michael Pixley for “The Claw”
  • First Place (tie) — D. Miller for “Mental Love”
  • Second Place — D. Miller for “The Moment I Fell”

Non-Fiction

  • First Place  —  “Guatemala” by Anonymous
  • Second Place — S. Amir for “Despised and Rejected”
  • Third Place — Peter Le for “Love Letter”

The winning poetry entry is below the jump.

I Cry

By Anthony Talbert

Some cry when things seem to whirl wind out of control
Or cry when they want to be held,
But there’s no one to hold.
Growing up I was told that the eyes are the windows to
The soul.
So I cry to cleanse my soul of all the torment it
holds.
I cry for that man doing time because another man told.
I cry for that bronze complexioned sister who doesn’t
Realize that her body is gold.
I cry…
I cry for the victims of nine-eleven.
And I cry for those Bishops, Priests, and Reverends who just can’t
To keep their hands off of those little boys who are
Nine, ten and eleven.
I cry for the homeless who endure winter nights.
And I cry for those who refuse to walk with their heads
Held high because they are afraid of heights.
I cry for those who are looked over because of a felony
conviction.
Or those of you battling addiction,
Or that abused child who is scarred with afflictions.
I cry for that bastard handing out a million years all because
He’s in a position
To judge.
But one day he too will be judged.
I even cry for that gay population who is judged.
And I cry for Jesus because,
Not only did he cry, but
He died because he was judged.
I cry for you because I was once you.
A man who is too cool to cry for me too.

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