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  • Rough Draft TX Team

The Personhood Project Episode 2: Roger Jones

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

In this episode, host, Aaron Tyler Hand sits down for a conversation with poet Roger Jones in his office on the campus of Texas State University. They talk about short poems, long poems, and everything in between, all while reading and discussing poetry written by incarcerated individuals.

Roger Jones

What can you say in as little space/room as you can?


My Morning

5am I hear a clicking sound, tray slot open and I look around

Celly asleep and not hearing a sound

In my mind I cuss at the food on my tray

The same ol’ shit day after day

This is how I begin doing my life


The thud of an

Instrumental wake

A bob of my head

And a thought of music

To create

No other way

but to fill my day

With passion

Let the lyrics

Flow out of me

When I exhale

The air of compassion

Grass smelling of tumbleweed

After a hefty glass of

Some humble mead

And shotguns sound off

To show

That the world’s

Still not at ease

Another day in the neighborhood

In my world,

It's full of peace

Another day to create is

Another day to tell

Of me

Time, Love, & Dedication

All things

I neglected to offer

Throwing to you

Stacks of money

And advice of

“Hey, meet me at the altar”

A late arrival

And no apology

From me

You gained ptsd

But yet

Your love


Faltered from me

You waited up

Day and night

I’d come in alive

When I make enough to

Leave the streets

You left with me a gift

Saying, do you remember,

“You came in covered

In blood, repeating,

It wasn’t me”

For this I thank you

For trying to

Take me away

From the stress

Part Half

“She's gone” he said “and so are you”

Driving along, I grit my teeth,

I hate him

Reaching over, he turns the radio on

Dancing, singing,

He looks at me to join.

I do.

I hate him.

Takes my phone and a dollar to roll

Puts it up my nose.

Don't bother looking

Already know,

Feel better

Feel worse

I hate him.

He buys every pack of cigarettes

Every plastic bag

Every hotel kiss

Cheers when I’m up

Jeers when I’m down

My wallet is never safe in his hands

It always is

I hate him

We pull up to a church to confess my sins

His arms folded

Face cross

“Don't go in” he warns “you’re a hypocrite!”

He’s always right

He never is

I hate him

Part Whole

Out the car, my

Friend looks angrily

Stare at him, and

He stares back at me

Afraid to leave

Always by my side

Feel so exposed

With nowhere to hide

Walk up the steps

Cracking ‘neath my feet

Imagining hell,

Its flames. Its heat.

Through the door, a long way to the altar.

It’s my road this time, I must not falter

Kneeling at the cross. Clothes already wet.

“You’ve nothing to fear, my son, so don’t fret!”

His hand on my shoulder, warm to the touch.

My face on the ground. His grace is too much.

Remember my friend,

Us always a pair

My new life is one

We can never share

Walk back to the car

Now see him nowhere

Sit inside and smile

He was never there

Writing Prompts:

  1. Roger Jones uses his poem Juke Box to give praise to an ordinary day in his life. He writes about the sounds of change falling into the jukebox, the songs coming through the speakers, and the taste of his breakfast. To him, just because there is nothing special about that day, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth praising. Write a poem that shows what an ordinary day is like in your life. Try to include the sounds you hear, smells you smell, and things that you taste. This will help place the ready right into your shoes

  2. In Poison, Roger Jones uses the image of a doctor giving someone medicine as a way to talk about the traumas of his past sneaking up on him. He talks about the “unmistakable dark markings of his own dark hands” as a reflection on the hurt that they have caused to others. Write a poem about the way you hurt someone and the regrets you have about it. You can be direct about the situation or use a metaphor to talk about the emotions behind it, without naming any names.

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