As the End Comes (a tribute to Alice Walker)

by Mardie Swartz

Mardie Swartz has spent 29 years behind bars in Texas. This poem is about the time approaching when she will finally be beyond bars.

I remember beginnings –

The first time I was molested

Sold, abandoned, raped

The first drink, snort, shot of

Whatever would numb some

of the pain. The first time I

ran, and the first time I

just stayed and closed my eyes.

The first time I tried to hang.


I recall pissing on myself

In fear when I entered jail

at sixteen. The smell of

vomit, stale bodies, and

broken lives seeping into my

skin and hair as

I huddled in a corner

trying to be invisible again.


I can still feel the smooth

slice and burn of steel parting

flesh. The pulse of my lifeblood

racing forth when I tried to

Give the state back my seventy-five years –

The easy way…….

A cascading red necklace

made of anguish and despair.


As days became months,

became years

then decades which melded into

monotonous monologues with different

faces but familiar themes,

hope became dust motes in a sunbeam –

briefly glimpsed, but intangible,





And yet.

With the changing of the

calendars, the changes in

the mirror, came the

changes in my soul –

Emerging from the shattered

mess of degradation and shame

arose a survivor, a warrior

an unconquerable heart

who dared to look up,

lift my head,

and piece together a life amid the dross and dregs

of the irredeemable.


As the end comes,

I realize

everything I’ve heard

about it

is false.


Betrayal no longer matters

Hatreds are forgotten,

forgiven. Abrupt

Partings for weird reasons

are resolved, and love

comes crashing against

my heart’s door.


There is no longer fear

of the unknown

but a gripping, relentless


as months become days,

become hours,


seconds –


And I walk out the gates

to a new beginning

toward my own

until now unimaginable


without fences and bars

16 thoughts on “As the End Comes (a tribute to Alice Walker)

  1. Rubby Aldridge

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful amazing poem!! Welcome to a beautiful world of freedom, love 💕 and happiness on your future life journey Alice!!!

  2. Lesley Rae

    thank you so much for sharing these deeply emotional words. I only did seven years so I can only imagine what it would be like doing so many years. my boyfriend although is scheduled to be released in 2047. with that a piece of me is still left behind, but I do plan to be there for him every step of the way. your words have me in tears they are so moving. I can’t wait to hear the bright words as you become released in June. it’s an emotional overload. you’ll feel like you’re in another dimension. it’ll be confusing and sometimes terrifying. but it is beautiful, amazing, just absolutely wonderful. every little moment of wonder and beauty of being away from that terrible place has me in tears. but still I cry for my friends and love I left behind. I will be whole once my love comes home to me. but until then I will celebrate freedom. for him, for all of them.

  3. Snow Thorner

    Mardie, thank you for this. Your poem moved me beyond words. One of the most powerful pieces I have ever experienced…. beautifully wrought. I see you stepping into and enjoying an exceptional life in June. Deep bows to you.

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