Starting in 2006, Tamms Poetry Committee sent poems and letters to men at Tamms, the supermax prison in Illinois, and read and responded to the letters we received. Before long, this correspondence made it abundantly clear that while the poems were appreciated, what was really needed was a campaign to educate the public on the human rights atrocities at Tamms and to close or at the very least reform the prison. In 2008, the TPC launched Tamms Year Ten. I organized music benefits for the campaign, continued to read letters from the men and wrote a couple of songs about these experiences. They are meditations on solitary confinement, the complexities of political organizing, the gap that must be bridged between people in prison and "free" citizens, and the near-impossibility of maintaining hope in a world of infinite suffering.
-Kent Lambert


[i played and played and played and played and played
and i played and played and played and played and played]

fireflies under the water
16 years in the sun
skin cracked & boiling
wait for my letter

starfires under the water
3000 nights in the cold
shivering half-dreams of terrified godheads
and souls trapped in amber

[i prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed
and i prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed]

white flags into the slaughter
5 or more lifetimes locked in a cell
poems and christmas cards, greetings from desperate meetings--
"stay strong / keep on keepin' on / take care / hope you are well"

[i paid and paid and paid and paid and paid
and i paid and paid and paid and paid and paid]

soft eyes under the water
one sickly flame in the dark
can there be hope when there are no more illusions?
can a candle burn bright enough to bring back vision?
bring back my vision
take me from my mission
make me someone good.

 

YEAR 11
YEAR 11alt : http://roommatemusic.com/index/files/year-11.mp3

Hash marks on a banner
hash marks on a wall

Sad clowns getting sadder
Bad seeds growing tall

If you ask me what's the matter
I will tell you I am fine
I will tell you I am well

Did you smash yourself to smithereens
and did you leave them
on a concrete shelf in a bright white cell

What the fuck what the fuck who the hell
do I think I am
to think that I can understand
things I cannot fathom
things I can only imagine

Oh it's so easy to romanticize
a life that isn't mine
oh it's so easy to fetishize
please let me apologize

I'm sorry.

Hash marks on a banner
gash marks up inside

There's a strange man in the mirror
he won't look me in the eye

Can you send me some material
that might make sense of your crimes
and the crimes against you

Does the wind blow through your chuck hole?
Can you smell the burning sky can you feel the tide?

Look alive look alive look alive
You actually survived
How does it feel to be on the outside?
Ok, right, how about less of a story and more of a soundbite?

Oh it's so easy to politicize
when you know you're right
Even if you don't know why

Ah, but we know why
we know why
we know why

Hash marks on a t-shirt
hash marks on my skin

Something's changed but I can't be sure
We just keep playing like we'll never win

Still we raise our paper chalices
and toast another spring

To second chances and diamond dances
To the days when we might feel amazed again

To a time when we might mean it when we sing
"We still believe we can do anything"

To a time when we believe it when we sing
"We still believe we can do anything."

To a time when we believe it when we sing
"We still believe we can do anything."