Roy Wahlberg


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

It’s hard to believe
that time is linear
when the days curve
around like englished
cue balls, to drop in the
same pocket each night.

There’s no color or clue,
no change or separation
to catch one’s attention, in a
seamless sameness of days.

Even cellblock clocks
seem purposely circular
to assure we return again.

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

Released after a long stint,
you have no idea where you fit in —
a villainous leitmotif seems to begin
the instant you enter a room, when all
eyes turn and pin you, like a stinkbug,
right there, immobilized, in the doorway.

You feel like a scandalous outcast
from every respectable social circle —
a feral dog expelled to distant hillsides,
and, worse, a stranger to even yourself.

Eventually, you turn for some comfort
to those of your own wolfish kind, for
they know well the cyclical storyline
so do not look askance at your failure

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

The cell holds its cold breath
in detached anticipation — finally:

“So… are there any further questions?”
(Lord, where on earth would I begin?)

For even my normally loquacious papers look
up at me in apology, shrugging speechless —

Nothing and no one can offer even
the first word of explanation.

It’s clear prison holds no answers —
but the outside world isn’t talking either.

It’s time I stop asking.

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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.