Sunday, June 22, 2014


Editor’s note: While Charlie was in solitary in April (for no reason), he took some productive breaks from writing grievance forms and appeals and climbed that poem tree, putting voice to several he found there. We hope you enjoy them.


One morning when my mother was busy tending the baby
I slipped a butter knife from the kitchen drawer for protection
while I took a forbidden walk in the deep woods behind our house.

At first it was fun, exploring narrow trails, picking ripe berries,
listening to birds calling and squirrels chittering, getting thirsty,
bending down and sipping from a clear stream, startling a resting deer.

Imagining myself to be a brave warrior hunting to feed my tribe,
making noises and slashing bushes with my shiny dull knife,
scaring off any creatures before I saw them, I thought this was paradise.

Among the tall pines, wide oaks, hickories, sweet gum and persimmon,
knobby crabapples, I could play forever without a care,
until my stomach grumbled and I worried I’d be late for lunch.

When I turned back, the trees all looked the same: dense, uninviting;
instead of being my friends, they seemed to hem me in.
I was lost in the dark woods with no idea which way was home.

I told myself I was a big boy, though at six I fought the urge to cry.
wandering, confused, I turned this way, then that, afraid at last
that I might never be found, condemned to starve or be eaten by bears.

Then I heard a quick rustling of leaves, sounds coming nearer, I feared
the worst, but instead appeared my dog, “Little!” I cried, while
he wagged and twisted and licked my face of tears of joy.

He kept looking back as he led me home, as though concerned I might
wander off again, but soon our yard and house appeared, my mother
at the back door, asking, “Where have you been? Are you hungry, boy?


I twiddle the heart-shaped seed,
turn it lightly, study the black stripes
that define it, debate whether to crack
it open between my teeth. Instead,
on impulse I bend down, shove the seed
into the warm soil, and walk away.

Soon a struggling green sprout emerges,
awakens to the bright sun, and every day
I pass to mark its growth until, like
Jack’s magic bean, the husky stalk with
its billowing leaves reaches my height
with little concern for the attentions of men.

At first a meager closed head atop
a massive leaved trunk, facing the earth,
the bud begins to swell. In days it
rises toward the eastern sky, enclosing
petals open, revealing yellow glory within.
Before long it becomes a mighty sunflower.

Outshining every garden bloom, the queen
summons humble bumble bees to attend her,
sharing pollen and nectar with the swarms
who seek her bounty, seeds fattening with oil.
Tired now, weight too great to hold up, the
head turns again toward the ground beneath.

One day I see a sparrow gripping a dry
leaf next to the bulging cache of seeds, hanging
upside-down, pecking, pecking, heart-shaped
striped seeds raining to the soil, where other birds
gorge themselves. I tickle some seeds into my
hand, enough to save for sunflowers next year.


Four white walls
            surround you,
                        enclose you.

This is no time for claustrophobia.
            Get over it.
                        Be strong or give up.

There is no air.
            You run your fingers over the grill
                        that passes for a window

Seeking light.
            There is none,
                        Only a bare whisper of warm air.

The sliding steel door
            slams shut. Clang!
                        You are locked in.

Only a sliver of bulletproof glass
            allows a look out at the other catacombs
                        of the living.

Why is the glass bulletproof?
            you wonder.
                        We have no guns.

They do. Get off the door!
            someone shouts,
                        Or I’ll write you up.

What does he mean, get off the door?
            Don’t let them see you
                        looking out, someone whispers,

Don’t let them hear you
                        It’s against the rules.

Nurse is coming
            to see if you’re still alive.
                        Sitting upright is proof enough.

Don’t look at her!
            Forbidden fruit
                        well past its sell-by date.

They shaved your head
            when you came in chains.
                        Dehumanization process began.

Don’t talk, don’t look,
            Don’t do nothing,
                        one tells you.

How long do I have to stay back here?
            you ask. Someone answers,
                        Until you die.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


from June 1, 2014

While sorting through legal papers, I discovered the following note and photos that my dearly departed  Uncle Junior sent me in July, 2000, from the Walker family reunion in Texarkana, Texas. Junior (Floyd Walker, Jr.) was my mother’s younger brother, and we had been close since my earliest memories. He was one of my strongest supporters and encouragers throughout my imprisonment.

Starting with my grandfather, Floyd Walker, Sr., (Bebaw), the Walker men always called me Hoss. Junior was the last one to call me that. I asked Libby if she could scan the actual note for this message, so you could see the actual handwriting. I imagine that the “Arkansas State Reading Council 1995” notepaper was left over from my Aunt Glenda’s teaching career.

This photo shows Junior at left with the hat and blue shirt. Uncle Israel Walker, center, my grandfather’s youngest brother, and Aunt Bonnie Thornhill, at right, his youngest sister, pose with Junior. Aunt Bonnie’s son, Richard, is behind her, and grips her right arm. All four have passed on.

The second photo shows Aunt Bonnie’s youngest daughter, Linda, and her husband, Ricky Willett. Linda and I were in first grade together at Redwater, all twelve grades in one school. Our class had 16 boys and 4 girls. I always wondered how their senior prom came out. Linda has also been one of my most stalwart supporters, since the beginning of this life in Hell. Sadly, Ricky also passed away.

Linda recently sent me a letter with photos she took of the old home places where we all used to live, several centuries and lifetimes ago, it seems. Brought tears to my eyes. Thanks, Linda.


Sunday, June 1, 2014


May 31, 2014
For over two years, since I first arrived at this prison, I’ve been subjected to countless incidents of harassment, retaliation, and reprisal from the prison mail supervisor, Linda Moser. It first began when I tried to mail the latest edits of a short story, “Neighbors,” to Libby for typing and corrections. My friend and literary mentor, Stephanie Riggio, in New York, had been editing and critiquing that story for two years at the time.

Libby and I place log numbers and dates on all our letters, to keep track of the mailings. Good thing. When she hadn’t received the letter and corrections in two weeks (normal — 3 to 4 days), I filed a complaint against the mail room. The battle began. The next day I got the un-mailed letter back, with a “Post-it” note attached — “Inmates Can Not write Short Stories!”

Did she mean we weren’t capable of writing them? No. But we weren’t going to mail any short stories on her watch. Since I had been teaching classes on short story writing for years with prison approval, and the First Amendment — freedom of speech and expression — hasn’t been repealed — yet — of course I had to fight it.

She stole postage stamps from my mail. A couple dozen letters disappeared, never delivered nor returned to sender. In her anger, she fabricated three false disciplinary reports, one of which caused me to spend thirty days in solitary. Still I fought. I wasn’t the only one. Many others complained of postage stamps missing and undelivered letters, cards, and magazines, but none documented every incident like I did. What choice did I have, even though one false d.r. could cost me three more years in prison?

Finally someone listened. She was investigated. The U.S. Postal Service was involved, I heard. While I was in solitary, I heard, officials notified her that she was fired, and was escorted off state property. In her office, they found eight bins of undelivered mail. All my allegations were confirmed. She is gone.

You would think that would result in the dismissal of the false charges from 2012, when I spent January, 2013, in solitary, for her lies, so I discussed these issues in a phone call to my attorney. Those d.r.s written by Linda Moser could add more years to my sentence, and they needed to be addressed. After that phone call, a high-ranking official informed me that I could tell my attorney that those 2012 d.r.s had been removed from my record, since my allegations of retaliation and wrong-doing by Moser had been confirmed. The official said, “it was the right thing to do.”

Further, this latest false accusation that sent me to lock-up from April 13 to May 11 was overturned, and I was released early. I believe that was due to the letters and e-mail of support sent to the warden from my friends and family, and  all the prayers for my benefit. I am humbled by your efforts, and I send heartfelt thanks to each of you. God is awesome.

The only blemish on my record that remains on the table is the 2010 retaliation d.r. written because of the publication of “To Protect The Guilty,” the memoir excerpt about my run-in with KKK prison guards many years ago. That false d.r. was the cause of the increase of my release date from 2014 to 2017. If Attorney William Sheppard works his magic in federal court, my release date could be sooner. Thank you for all your support, encouragement, and prayers, and please keep at it. Sometimes the good guys win one.

A NOTE: Everyone Laughed

I lost thirteen pounds in 29 days in solitary, and the elastic waistband style pants they issue us hung loosely. Tonight they had the weekly “chicken leg” supper meal, the only time we can identify the species of meat served.

Because a lot of men attempt to take their chicken leg back to the dormitory to sell, usually for something sweet, the guards pat down and search everyone, confiscating any food found.
I was in a long line, it was hot, and a female correctional officer was subjecting everyone in my line to a very thorough search. We stand with our hands in the air while she searches. After she made sure I had no chicken stashed under my arms or under my waistband, she ran her hands down my legs and yanked my loose pants way down. “Oops, sorry.” My hands were in the air, so she pulled them back up. She didn’t find anything. Everyone thought it was funny. We can’t talk, but we can laugh.