2023 Poetry of the Outliers 2nd Place Winner: The Bars Divide Us – Poetry by Robert Tyrone Lilly

2nd Place Winner of the 2023 and 3rd Annual Poetry of the Outliers Contest!

The Bars Divide Us
All these years have gone by, beloved/
You are right there but still we can’t touch/
Their bars form a barrier between you and I/
I’ve tried to bend them and set you free/
My hands grown callous/
My strength/
It failed me/
Their bars separate us/
Long distances I’ve traveled cross bridge and border/
Just to gaze upon your face/
Through stained, fingerprint marked, plexiglass/
Their partitions keep us apart/
Their bars divide us/
Their work designed to break what we share/
You told me not to cry/
How could I not/
Seeing you chained, manacled/
A slave in fetters/
My heart sinks at the mere thought of this image/
Flesh of my flesh/
In twain we are cut/
Their bars a cold scalpel/
Severing flesh from bone/
Your letters oft our our only contact/
No calls, no video, no connection, except/
The memories of our innocent youth/

I was supposed to be your protector/
Mother taught me to be that/
Yet, now I feel almost too weak/
Too small to protect you still/
Their bars keep me away from the brutes and bullies you dread/
Hold on dear beloved/
Do not let them have your soul/
Our day will soon come/
No matter the wait/
I shall be here/
Like a grand oak/
Standing tall, anticipating your return to my shade/
Your release from their bars/

What once kept us disunited/
Was only effective in name/
Never have I forgotten you/
Not one minute/
Not one day/
When I look in the mirror/
It is your face that stares back/
Their bars cannot divide/
What lies deeply within/
Robert Tyrone Lilly

Robert has learned to navigate a world in which he has, for most his life, felt unwanted by. His trick for overcoming adversity and opposition was the use of his words. For him, his words are like colors, the more one has of them, the more elaborate the portrait they can create. Robert has been shaped by NY blight, shaken by LA terror and caged in Texas prisons, only to find his resolve and grit to forge forward with a fully self-actualized life. He is a story still being written. Robert loves people and loves to make them think and smile with the use of his pen. He has turned the penitentiary into his penmanship.

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