backlit silhouetter of a woman

Vaughn Walker was awarded the Fielding Dawson Prize in Poetry in the 2019 Prison Writing Contest.

Every year, hundreds of imprisoned people from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population. On September 18, PEN America will celebrate the winners of this year’s contest with a live reading at the Brooklyn Book Festival, BREAK OUT: A 2019 PEN America Prison Writing Awards Celebration.

Young Girl Twenty

5’10 admired by crooks that be like, “Hey Dawn”
Mostly by chicks that get they hate on
Suede boots, with a Gucci skirt, she stayed
on Apple juice and Bonton chips, to keep her weight on
The type of chick that young thugs’ll wait on,
and older catz lose they weight on
Modestly fly, sour chicks couldn’t play Dawn
Pride and principles, she got ’em from her gay mom
Admired catz that could play calm and shoot at dudes with a straight arm . . .
Sorta like . . . AI with his game on daddy
It only took the little things to make Dawn happy
As a younger girl she remembered how drugs took chatty
Or should I say: How mommy said, “God took daddy” 
She couldn’t contemplate tragedy
At age 5 thinking she could climb trees if she planted apple seeds in God’s eye
When no rain came she thought, “Then why try?” 
When 15 came she thought, “If I die, I’ma have the phattest of whips,
of plenty catz that called me small fry”
Yeah, little Dawny had plenty features that appeal to a soft eye
At 16, Damn! They thought they’d all fry
Now Dawny all grown built like a horse riiiggghhhttt!
See, things changed when pleasure became a name
And shorty changed the game for killahs who honored fame,
Now Dawny got ’em trained . . .
To get money or they lame
How things change is a story’s heart, but for Dawny . . .
5 bullets and a cop was a jealous narc