Song for Pelican Bay

Some people have a lot in common
Such as the thousands and thousands of captive men
Held in windowless cells 23 hours a day
In the SHU’s of Pelican Bay
Some of the smartest people you’ll never meet
Each and every day, a life on repeat
Indefinite detention is the weight they carry
Never told when they get out of solitary

Decades alone until they snitch
Those are the rules, that’s the pitch
Decades divided into different groups
A guaranteed life of repeated loops
Decades divided on different teams
With Latin, Black and Aryan themes
But those days are over and it’s been five weeks
Refusing food until the Reaper speaks

Now they’re not eating anymore

Some of them are in there for reading the wrong news
Some of them are in there for having the wrong tattoos
In the outside world they might not care
But there’s no “free speech” in there
A life lived under arbitrary authority
No human contact, no dignity
It’s no kind of life at all
So 20,000 prisoners answered the call

And said we’re not eating anymore

They say California’s a progressive state
Governor Brown, ain’t he great
You got Silicon Valley and Hollywood stars
And 120,000 men behind bars
Hunger pangs stab like a knife
But sometimes so does life
Something’s gotta change, maybe this is the start
If the people on the outside play our part

Because they’re not eating anymore

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“Pelican Bay” originally appeared on the Bandcamp album, Spies Are Reading My Blog (2013) and then on the CD, If I Had A Hammer (2013).

I wrote this when thousands of prisoners in California were on hunger strike against solitary confinement and other forms of state torture.