Between the Bars

With the black man

In his cell

I feel kinship

They say I’m

Not black

I’m brown

Any shade less

Than ebony

But I am black

Black as the night

Without a moon

Malcolm X said:

America means prison

For me too, O

My brother

America means prison

I did not go with

Your ancestors

To the land of the free

In slave ships

But I made the journey

In spirit:

I was with you

Among the rats

And the vomit

Today, the prison

Industry keeps you


As surely                                       

As the freedom


Keeps me in chains

They say I am free

Because I can vote:

Then, O my brother,

So are you

In your narrow


Who benefits from

My freedom?

The NGOs funded

By USAID and


The intellectuals

Whose careers

Are made in



Only the white man

Has power, O

My brother

Pace patiently

Patiently pace

The flagged stones

Peer patiently

Patiently peer

Between the bars

I do not know

What manner

Of birds you see

But you and I

Shall be free

The Great Bazaar

That marketplace called the United States,

Where we sell our talents, and our clothes, and

Ourselves, like captives of old in the agora,

Where we buy what we need and what we do

Not need, such as our self-esteem which (but

We’ve forgotten!) cannot come from others;

That marketplace where my parents wanted

Me to succeed, and where I chose to fail;

That marketplace where I chose not to go

But stayed here to find my soul, to find you!

You lifted me above The Great Bazaar

Into that circle where the angels warn

Against man’s pride. The currency we use

Eternally remains: what if the world be lost?

Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English. He was born and lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has contributed to The Danforth Review, Axis of Logic, Enter Text, Postcolonial Text, Southern Cross Review,, Left Curve, Mobius, Erbacce, Down In The Dirt, The Fear of Monkeys, and other publications. He is also a freelance journalist. He and his wife love to travel. He can be found at,,, and

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