Roy Wahlberg


(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

A poet, among the most courageous of creatures,
must sit in the midst of her own and others’ feelings,
facing them, naming them, taming them
with delicate bridles of constraint
so they crouch, snarling, among her lines —
still thrilling, but now harmless,
for the alchemical power of poetry
has turned them all to toothless chimeras of art
where the only danger that then remains
is an overdose of emotional delight!

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this poem appeared in a prior issue of Wordgathering.

Back to Top of Page | Back to Poetry | Back to Volume 14, Issue 4 – December 2020


(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

Back in seg again,
confused, kennel-crazed,
his mind wound as taut
as a humming bowstring.

Pacing the cell floor
this way and that —
just three frantic half-steps
from the front to the back.

Something then broke in him deep
down inside, so he pulled up midstride
and began to howl, snarl, and snap at
the soul-corroding hard bars and hot air.

Then, in the final flowering
of long decades of suffering
he fell to his worn-out knees,
bid farewell to love and the sky
and bit off his now hated wings.

Back to Top of Page | Back to Poetry | Back to Volume 14, Issue 4 – December 2020

About the Author

Roy Wahlberg, OID# 103429. Born: 11/20/1951. Life sentence: 1976. His brain later determined to have been so ravaged by early life disease, even hydrocephalus surgery was long denied as pointless (as it proved to be). Ultimately, however, miraculous “compensations” emerged from his brain deterioration and epilepsy treatment: the “Grandma Moses Effect” of late-life artistic drive. For him this took form as musicophilia, hypergraphia, and compulsive versification–the three stabilizing legs of his intellectual stool (both the furniture kind and his overall function, at times a bit scatological).

With autism, dysphasia (verbal deficits), and attention/memory scores in the bottom 5-7%, only through writing can Roy achieve a solid and continual sense of self–that essential ingredient of normal life that is otherwise entirely missing or only flimsily maintained. Halting and forgetful in speech, it is writing alone that releases his mind into smooth and tireless eloquence as the logical thread is held reliably before him by the medium.

Perhaps most important, writing instantly expands his tiny cell from a lonely cage of despair into cognitive banquet-halls filled with infinite imaginative possibilities, a doorway to the spirit, and an inexhaustible and cathartic feast of dream and reason. In many ways, more than most, Roy must write to live. “I have not lived a perfect life, but none so bad as the world would believe.” — Cole Younger, James Gang Two-way email is possible with Roy through the website, searching for him as Roy Wahlberg 103429. This portal, however, will soon be switching over to

His mailing address is:

MCF-Oak Park Heights
5329 Osgood Ave. N.
Stillwater, MN 55082-0010

Be the first on your block to interact with a lifer in a cellblock! Roy’s work has been published in Wordgathering, Breath & Shadow, and Poetry Pacific.