“Perfectly Human” by Foosie
I’m only human but that doesn’t diminish my perfection in the slightest. When I was born – I was perfectly loved – and nothing has changed since that day. So, let me be one of the first people to ever tell you that I’m perfect.
Born out of wedlock to an OG who already had two kids by two different Dads…perfect. Born a tone of brown that hasn’t always been held in the highest esteem when it comes to pulchritude…perfect. Big nose…perfect. Big lips…perfect. Gap tooth smile…perfect. The water beads off my skin like candy paint fresh from the carwash…perfect.
Tattoo of a lost solder on my arm…perfect. Gun powder dust on my sleeves…perfect. A mug shot instead of a graduation picture…perfect. Blood on my hands forever…perfect. I woke up this morning…perfect. I have hope for tomorrow…perfect. I’ve got a story to tell…perfect.
Perfect…Not in thought or in word or in deeds but in reality. Perfectly flawed and perfectly loved. And he is. So am I in this world.
“Break Free” by Brandon
I have forgotten what true freedom actually feels like, I’ve been in confinement for so long it seems like nothing around me is totally free. Take for example the common sparrows that I see every day in my surroundings. These are caged birds that sing prison songs in plantation fields to condemned men with hopeless dreams. They don’t even seem to fly high, building their nests in razor wire confines, raising their baby birds on chow hall scraps of bread, cake and cornbread crumbs. Reduced to mere pets and convict wildlife, that depend on scattered givings that they’ve been trained to accept since their eggs hatched. I secretly harbor feelings toward these jailbirds for settling for the charity of what is given and not facing the world to fly free and hunt for their own, so I don’t feed them. I see them basking on littered scraps, and wonder do they think this is heaven? A bird. God’s gift supplied from somewhere higher than their scared wings can fly. But even those are no longer a gift of freedom – just mere crutches used for the task of journeying from one part of the prison yard to the next in search of their daily freebie. They might as well have legs being as I deem their wings useless. These birds have become content and lazy and it fills me with dread and sadness. Will it be like that for me upon my release? Will I be so institutionalized that I depend on welfare, food vouchers and the kindness of others through charity in order to make my way? Can I even survive outside of the guard towers, movements along with free bed, meals and medical? Or am I too, broken like these birds I view? Secretly hoping one day people stop feeding them so that they can fend for themselves and make it on their own like nature intended. For them wake up and fly away to greener pasture never to return and create a future generation of eggs to hatch which will be born in freedom. To fly high and explore the endless sky. Maybe than I will be able to see the hope in me after a caged bird breaks free.
“Welcome” by Brandon
Welcome is the word I say to show a guest they are an honored visitor in my home. Welcome to my place of peace where the smell of Febreze drifts through the air like autumn leaves. Where home-cooked meals are the norm and sounds of soul music play constantly on the radio. Welcome to a new type of vibe where the curtains stay open to let the sun come inside. Flowers grace the window sills and smile erase stress and cure your ills. Welcome to a feeling from the past – one that makes you feel at home before a time when life’s woes stole your goals. This was the place that was my grandmother’s house in a field of dreams in a cottage down South.
“Dimensions” by Albert
I sat up on many gloomy nights staring at the cell walls. And the small ray of hope ebbed itself through me in a small cell where you are able to only see the embers of dust present themselves as snowflakes dancing in the shadows with their angry, dirty faces. For many decades, I’ve adjusted to incarceration: the faint smell of the zoo and predators move themselves back and forth hoping that some soul would reach in, not to harm, but to feel the warmth of a kind heart. Existence for me became a 4×10 foot cell, in many cases, and as I reached out my arms the cell becomes smaller in size. Dimensions are an illusion. What they don’t compute is the toilet, bunks and sink. In some prisons, I can put a hand and shoulder against one wall and it’s not a far reach. Your existence is a cement dungeon, dry, stripped of all feelings. In these circumstances two men will get to know one another well and some will form a tight bond while others will want to kill each other before the first week is over. Cell size will depend on the relationship. I’ve seen so much violence and grief. For there is a camouflage of bloodshed and a reflection of a man’s eyes through the mirror, and I’m hoping to get a glimpse of some other soul, but really, we only see the screams and a sense of not being heard. I remember the fights behind the walls at another prison in California, and the smell of copper and the blood engraved blanket we wrapped with a man’s flesh and a body being carried out. We chose the life because we were born into this life.
“Imagine” by Krazy Dave
I couldn’t imagine a life without either my Mom or Dad. My Mom is my rock. I tell her everything – stuff I need advice on and even somethings she doesn’t wanna know or shouldn’t know. I don’t lie to them whether the situation is good or bad but I do think some of things would hurt, scare, or shock them and so I don’t bring it up. Would it be wrong to be selfish and want to be the first to leave this world? Just so I wouldn’t have to endure the pain and suffering of losing one of them, if not both. I fear the day of losing anyone I love dear to my heart. I don’t deal with loss well.
“Under the Mat” by Phil
Two inches of cotton wrapped in plastic, formed and fitted to resemble a mattress placed on top of a steel frame is where I lay my head every day. With two sheets and two blankets and a pillow that wasn’t issued. Nope, I had to make it. That pretty much describes every bed in prison – just to give you a little insight on how we’re living. But, what makes each bed different? It’s not how the bed looks, it’s what’s under the mat. A lot of legal mail and paperwork from the courts, pictures of loved ones showing support, swimsuit magazines and hood books of all titles, state envelopes, newspapers, and some version of the Bible, a fairly new jumpsuit – only to be worn to visits creased and neatly folded to give that “fresh” appearance, request slips to counselors that will never get a reply, broken down razors for a haircut and a line, and that one thing we all hate to see is a calendar, but for some reason we still take a peak – that itself gives us a reason to never come back and put the things we cherish most, under the mat.
“Daddy’s Little Princess” by Phil
You’re Daddy’s little princess.
Your light shines bright,
in the midst of my darkness.
Your voice takes the pain away.
Your laughter can run the rain away.
You’re such an angel.
Your wings are made of gold.
He sent you straight from Heaven.
Baby girl you warm my soul.
I miss you like the sky misses the sun at midnight.
And that brings me joy, for the sun will kiss the sky,
again at sunrise.
And I too, shall kiss those chubby cheeks soon.
You’re my joy.
You’re my life.
You’re my love.
You’re Daddy’s little princess
“Testimonial” by Brandon
This creative writing class is an outlet that allowed me to vent my frustrations while creating something therapeutic and ultimately timeless from my unique point of view. All my life experiences are connected. I liken it to my Culinary Arts juncture where I was able to utilize my creativity in constructing meals, blending flavors and designing menus for different functions. By learning that, I was able to understand how all my past involvements enlisted multiple skill sets that could be transferred to my writing. It was like I was mastering the perfect recipe of me. The ingredients being past courses and classes I took, and the values they embody became like spices added in to enhance the product. Ms. Debra helps create an artistic atmosphere where the students can learn as well as crate. An environment that transforms into a safe space filled with ideas as well as support. A place where you can learn to trust and be yourself without judgmental eyes of others surrounding you. I’m grateful to be able to enter this state of mind before my release because it has given me a new way to see my daily life in confinement as a series of stories. My regular dramas are now great plots with my fellow offenders, staff and even volunteers as the characters push my otherwise mundane life to become an adventure. Through writing, I can see how my pain and hardship have also become my saving grace so now I write every day for myself as well as my future. To be able to release my frustrations and find the talent within myself is a gift more precious than gold.
“Lil’ Sis” by Phil
My little sister and I have a bond that can never be broken.
We have a secret code that can never be spoken.
We’re twins in a way.
one in the same,
but born a near apart,
plus one month 27 days.
When she’s hurting,
I can feel her soul cry.
That’s no lie.
She can’t lie to me either
even though she still tries.
I tell her, “we’re twins goofy.”
She’s just the girl version of me.
A beautiful, strong, talented
black woman with a purpose to be.
She’s an artist. She’s a poet.
She’s an aunt. She’s a daughter.
She’s mother. Last but not least, she’s my lil’ sis.
“The Recipe of Me” by Brandon
I am the sum of a road long travelled before I was even thought of. The product of two intersecting lives who survived long enough to collide at a certain moment in time. My parents at one point certainly vibed. They married and never divorced but separated before I experienced my first hug which didn’t matter to me because I have no doubt I was created out of love. I was born at a wedding on the 28th day of February during a year that leaps. A healthy 12-pound baby nicknamed “Fatboy” with a head full of hair and two front teeth. If you wonder why I talk so much it’s because I had an early start, by age one I could speak. At two I could draw, and at the age of three I could walk, read a little and ride our dog like a pony through the project halls. I grew up adventurous and full of mischief, lovely annoying but thought to have “a gift.” What for? Nobody could seem to say though I was special in certain ways, thought to be ahead of my days. Everybody knew I had a gift, but nobody warmed me It was a maze. I was good at a lot of things, got enrolled in a lot of classes where I demonstrated a lot of talent, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to find my passion. Art was an ability that just came natural. I took it for granted, didn’t hone my skills because it came too easy. Sports was cool, but not my coaches. I was treated like a project and once I got hurt – they didn’t need me. I made my classmates laugh and my teacher called me the “class clown.” The confusion of trying to live up to everyone’s expectations started to bring me down which led me to search for something I eventually found. The streets have a gravitational pull that is all on its own. A whole underworld of enticement can make you leave your home for the unknown. Instant gratification modified my sense of rules and regulations. I took on a whole new education without the text books. My teachers became criminals with wayward looks. I tore down my dreams and reconstructed them as schemes. With nothing to lose, I have everything to prove, and so much to gain, but it required some pain. Thus, I left home at fourteen years old under the pretense I was a man full-grown. This was my chance to have status in a society that regarded me as a kid, because in the counter-culture you earned respect by deeds of dirt that you did. But it’s fine print on this pamphlet I failed to read. My arrogance that I was gifted made me believe I’d success. But, what a tangled web we weave when wants to outweigh our needs, and I seem to have made all my decisions based of greed. I planted these seeds that formed strong roots, but I was unaware of this new strange fruit. Time hung on the vine like laundry on a clothesline, now tally up your entrance because you chose to do the crime. At eighteen I was given thirty years to reflect. After seventeen years I can now see the cause and effect. I am the sum of my totals, the project of my recipe. I am whoever I make myself and whatever I choose to be.