Poems and Stories


More Stories - in Spanish
Favorite Stories - in English
More Stories - in English

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Dressed in Chains

My name is called out.
Heavy and defeated
I walk over to the desk where the
Guard stands.
ďWhatís your booking number manĒ?
I get the word out
With much effort.
My hands are bound,
My legs shackled.
I am only wearing these chains,
And the hatred in my heart
Is evident in my actions.
I am heading for the hole,
Me and four others
Whoíve survived
Our battle against them.
Our fight, just or not,
Doesnít matter.
ďDo you have a statement to makeĒ?
ďNope.Ē
ďYou are okay thenĒ?
ďYepĒ

Of course I am not all right.
Of course my whole
20-year old,
One-hundred-thirty pound frame
Hurts like crazy.
But all the same,
I keep my end
Of the unspoken agreement
Between us
And those who hold
The keys,
They, who see me as nothing,
As just another
Faceless wanderer
Of this vast wasteland
Of LA County Jail
Where brutality
And misfortune are king.

The hole is filthy.
My ribs are cracked.
My face is purple.
My first thought Is ďsleepĒ
But my anger cuts
Right through the pain.
My head is throbbing.
The cell stinks
Of sweat and desperation.
The rats are out playing.
My mouth is dry and sour.
I am cold
But determined to show otherwise.
I feel like crying.
I feel like screaming
A good healthy ef-you
At life,
But I stay quiet Like a good obedient soldier
Whoís not allowed
To show emotions

I wait
For this feeling to subside.
I wait for stillness
To conquer my fears,
To embrace me
To deliver me into the hands
Of oblivion,
To that place of unconscious
Magic
Where I donít have
To feel the weight
Of my body
Nor the decay
Of having been born
A human being
Without direction,
Without a home.

My Thoughts on the Poem, ďDressed in ChainsĒ

I wrote this in memory of a particular experience I had in LA County Jail, not to glorify my actions or those I called my homeboys once, but rather I wrote it to show that the mechanism of the system creates a very hostile environment, where captive and captor are transformed into something that only respects the uncut rawness of violence. Without the threat of violence, there is no respect received or given within the confines of this system that thrives on our humanity, whatever left of it we have from the get-go as it is.

The story is only one among a myriad of ones. As a young man I was caged within a cage, into a bad situation. And though Iíve survived, there are parts of me I wish I didnít surrender. It is not cowardly to seek help, to want to discover our true talents and our gift to life. To me it is more brave to want to help a fellow human being and be jailed for it than to be a fool gangbanger who thinks he knows all, but in reality doesnít know the first thing about living a true path, someone who doesnít see beyond his own selfish needs. I am awed when I read the words of people like Cesar Chavez, who fought against a very powerful force, or Nelson Mandela, whose very existence was a threat to the system that sought to destroy his peopleís spirit and desire to fight for their dignity.

And what do we fight for- A reputation, bragging rights? It amuses me to see some dudes in here, with tattoos that say how proud they are to be ďMexican,Ē ďSalvadoran,Ē ďBrown and proud,Ē etc. But how proud are we if we place so little value on our own peopleís lives? When we are ignorant of our own heritage and the struggles of our old ones? How proud are we when we take advantage of our own people, using the threat of violence against them, to rob them of their hard-earned money? How proud are we when we ask our mothers to stand in line to come in to see us wearing this uniform of shame? How proud are we when we call our wives or relatives to send money to this or that place to pay for our drug habit? How proud are we to have lost all ability to decide for our selves?

G. Alvarado
California

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When I am Outside

When I am outside
I want to find
This key
To myself
Then
The door, itíll open
To deliver me
Into the otherness
Whoís in this life
To live
To engage
The otherness
I often discard
And brush aside
But
Seek in desperation
When I am outside.

G. Alvarado
California

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Who's in Control?

Each day we are faced with decisionsÖ what to do with our lives? To whom should we give our trust? As a young person, the road ahead seems so distant. We want what is in front of us, what we can grab right now. Our blindness to the possible future outside our immediate situation perpetuates our lack of vision to the endless possibilities that await us.

Being faced with a life sentence more times than not anchors our arrogance to pause long enough to use our own thoughts. We begin to ask our selves, ďIs that what I really want Ė a reputation as a down, solid-vato homeboy/homegirlĒ? Granted some of us come from what is called a broken home Ė abusing parents/family, foster care workers, etc. Abuse in all its forms can destroy our foundation. But along the way have we not asked ourselves, ďIs this the life I want Ė a throw-away person. An outcast, an outsider who has lost all form of human reason and decency, someone who acts out of anger, someone who has no control over him/herself, a person who will only keep losing control whether inside jail or outside, always under the supervision of some guard, police, probation officer, parole officer, correction officer, etc.Ē?

So, to whom do we owe our loyalty? Where do we draw the line between whatís going to benefit us to create a life with real meaning or a life spent completely without control inside a prison where almost every moment of the day our lives are monitored? This is a question only each of us can answer, because no matter what others may tell us, we alone make a difference in our own lives. We can choose to take our power back to wake up to maturity, and start taking the hard road ahead outside our affiliations, or we can surrender and continue to let others do the thinking for us. Itís our own life, our own story. Who writes it?? That is our decision to make.

With much love, and hopes of clarity for all,
G. Alvarado
California

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As a Dream of Home

Is our existence
An act of kindness?
Our breath
The mechanism
Of an act of love?

Is our world
The makings
Of an inspired beingís imaginings?
Are the birdsí sounds
Gifts
Recited in
Magnificent songs?

Are the turquoise waters
Of the ocean
Tears of joy
From our Maker?
Is the Spirit
Of our departed ones
Bound to the same home?

And when we dream
Do we not visit
Our true home?

G. Alvarado
California

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The I Don't Care Syndrome

The ďI donít care syndromeĒ translated is the ďI donít give a ****Ē attitude young people develop as they drift away from the truth. Once young people develop this attitude, the mind psychologically turns on them, the same way Alzheimerís turns on the minds of our elders. Our young people become unorganized, revolutionary, radical thugs. The difference between the I donít care syndrome and Alzheimerís is that the I donít give a **** attitude is reversible, and most importantly is preventable.

The I donít care syndrome is a rare but dangerous way of perceiving everyday lifeÖ Young people between the ages of 12 and 17 develop this attitude when they are constantly faced with anger, stress and low self-esteem. The I donít give a **** attitude is the leading cause for our young people committing violent crimes. Their minds completely shut down to any rational way of thinking while believing that this certain attitude represents a sign of superiority. Our young people become temporarily insane.

The I donít care syndrome is prevented and reversed by simply talking to our young people, by showing our young people, the people who made a career out of the I donít give a **** attitude; prison yards and graveyards are full of them.

Showing our young people the people on these prison yards and in those graveyards is equivalent to the approach medical doctors take against the seasonal flu. They inject a rare strain of the flu into your body which builds up a tolerance in your body to make you immune to the flu.

I am a rare strain of the I donít care syndrome and I share with you the ingredient to prevent and reverse the I donít give a **** attitude in our young people. Talk to them; they will listen. Love them; they need that love. My name is Greg and sharing is caring!!!

Greg Wright
California

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The Antidote

There isnít an easy way to explain to a person that he or she has been conditioned to ďthinkĒ in ways which are unhealthy. This person must be open to hearing a new way of thinking. Otherwise he or she will believe his or her own truth according to his or her conditioning.

In this day and time, a lot of our young people are listening to movies and rap songs, while mistaking the movie or rap song to be reality. This is why it is very important that the parents expose their children to positive movies and music. This is step one to conditioning children to think positively. In order for children to become positive thinkers, they must be around positive people. All human beings carry a certain vibe about themselves. Children are able to detect whether that vibe is negative or positive. This is true even with adults. We can determine within minutes of talking to another person if their thoughts are predominantly negative or positive. Children are attracted to the vibes they receive from the people theyíre around the most.

I know a son who had a father and uncle who would smoke pot in front of him. The father and uncle would even blow smoke into the sonís face. As the son grew older, he started smoking pot by the time he was a teenager. The teenager got in trouble at school when he was caught smoking pot. The father and uncle became very upset with him saying, ďWhere did you learn to smoke pot?Ē The teenager answered, ďI donít know.Ē And they never realized that it was them who exposed him to smoking pot when he was just a young child.

In low income neighborhoods there is a virus which attacks the minds of people. This virus is called ďA Lie.Ē This virus is so strong and powerful that it has people thinking theyíre winning when theyíre losing. It was designed to cause anyone affected with it to self-destruct by way of gangs, drugs, crime, prison, and ultimately death. This virus enters the human mind through the ears and eyes. Children are at high risk because their minds are open the most while they are young. In these low income areas, the predominant thought process is negative because of the virus referred to as ďA Lie.Ē They believe that the only way out is crime of some kind. Nobody is there to remind them that ďPositive thoughts attract positive people; positive people attract positive situations; and positive situations attract positive results.Ē So the children are left to continue the cycle, and the virus continues to spread.

Nobody has everything, but everybody has something. Nobody can save everybody, but somebody can save someone. This is ďThe Antidote,Ē and now you have been exposed. There is more going on than the words that meet the eye. You will now begin to feel the positive vibe that I have released. This vibe was hidden in the words you just read. Everybody knows that words have power, and if you donít believe me, just read ďThe AntidoteĒ one more time and then ask yourself how you feel.

Greg Wright
California

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Unabstract Thoughts

I think about the injustices of life Ė of the deep valleys between human beings, about the vastness and immense space of a major library in some ancient city, and about the failure on our part to find the language to communicate with each other. I drift comatose into the stillness of our loneliness, of our never-ending desire to be in that moment that will deliver us into the warm hands of emptiness. I think about the noise and the city life that suck the life out of the earth.

I think about our hunger and my migraine headaches. I think about anger and despair we feel when our choices have been taken. I think about the mother who murdered her child because she succumbed to madness.

I think about the songs that people sing about love and hope. I think about Haiti and her people. I think about my belly full and aching. I think about my brand new nephew, how puffy and comfortable he looks in my sisterís healthy embrace. I think about my tears and their smearing effect on my words.

I think about men who have left their children behind. I think about our emptiness and our futile attempt to fill the waves with useless talk. I think about the industry of violence, about their children and childrenís children, and how history will forget their forefathers ill gains. I think about our old ones, our heroes, and how our minds will forget their battles and glories.

I think about paradise and how weíve surrendered it to the handful of thugs who stand tall making proclamations of how we should live. I think about love and forgiveness Ė and how all of it, and us is only a fragment of a prolonged story.

G. Alvarado
California

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I've Lived Extra-Ordinary

Iíve lived extraordinary -

As a boy Ė free and un-preoccupied
I climbed tress and flew kites.
I played and lived
Under the sun.
I hunted dreams
And listened
To old haunted stories.
I ate life
And kindled
The forces of nature.

As a man,
I became a witness to destruction.
I walked
Aimlessly
Always missing
The beating sound
Of the heart I left
Buried behind.
My memories smile.
They cast derision
Upon the futile attempt
On my behalf
To usurp a zen-like
Indifference to their place.

I walk alone
Tired and shamed
Craving a companion
A kindred soul
But I live
On a desolate land
Where solitude and space
Are a fiercely guarded commodity
I sing to the wind
And the moribund butterfly
Who seems more together
Than the whole of my life

G. Alvarado
California

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I Wonder Why

I wonder why
I feel terribly alone.
I wonder how
I've traveled
To this distant solitude...
Where was I?
How did I traverse
To this place?

I once had dreams -
I imagined
Things of a far off land

Now
I find each day
Further and further away
Away from the one
I used to be.
The one I was meant
To become.

Help me oh One
Help me to find the trails
That will lead me back,
Back to the place
Of my childhood dreams.

G. Alvarado
California

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Actions Speak Louder than Words

Greg here, the person who brought you ďThe So Called Game.Ē Iím back with ďActions Speak Louder than Words.Ē And there is almost no correct way to start off what needs to be said other than to jump right into it.

This is aimed at the minds of people who feel like they never had a chance because of where they grew up and who they grew up around - the ones who live in the hood and whose minds feel, ďThe hood is all I know,Ē the ones who feel that because of your race or gender you are being held back. This is aimed at the people whose minds believe that if they pray things will change - magically. This is for you.

This is year number 9 for me in prison. I am now 31 years old, soon to be 32 years old. Iím here to tell you today; Iím here to tell you right now that we live in a world where actions speak louder than words. If you say you would like to change the route youíre currently on, youíll never change! If you say you would love to be a lawyer, doctor, or have any other career, you can say what you want all day until youíre blue in the face. Nothing will change in your life until you put forth the actions.

We live in a world where actions mean everything. I donít care what country you live in, actions are the solution to success or to failure. This is true no matter what you believe or been lead to believe, and Iíll tell you why. The cycle has already been built for people who live in countries like the United States. Iíll explain: although you may not see this, but the overall mind state of the country is ďpositive.Ē What I mean by that is that in this country people will help you when you need helpÖ people will help you when you donít need help. This may not happen as much on the hood (neighborhood), but it happens. Your job is to put yourself in the position to receive the help, so that one day you can continue the cycle that has been built. The way you position yourself is simple: you go to school. The cycle is in full effect there. Not only do you just show up for the sake of showing up, you put forth some action. Your actions should show that you are willing to be taught what is needed to survive in this country or countries like the United States.

I am fully aware that these days schools have become a fashion show and people in general (mainly young people) care about how they look, which becomes a major distraction when in the process of positioning yourself to be a part of the cycle. This is where young people become attracted to drugs. Drugs in the neighborhood is a way to make fast money. Once money becomes involved, itís almost impossible to tell the young person anything. They begin to practice the ďlaw of actionsĒ in a different way. This way is by force, with guns. These actions are no good for countries like the United States. It is impossible to be able to buy the amount of guns one would need to continue living a life of force by guns. My point is that sooner or later you will lose by way of prison or death, and that is the truth. And if you go to prison, you will have passed up the years of being young without collecting the full education which is the true key to success in countries like the United States.

Right now, if you are between the ages of 13 years old and 17 years of age, you have the chance. If you have children or brothers/sisters between these ages, you have the chance. This is bigger than being tuff, because I was tuff. This is bigger than being down for the hood, because I was down for the hood. This is bigger than worrying about what to wear to school. This is as big as life itself!

I encourage you to take action. Go to school and learn. Finish school and go to college. Walk away from what you might believe is right in these neighborhoods. I encourage you to do this now, while you have the chance to. If you feel that staying true or down for the hood is considered ďkeeping it real,Ē well itís not! Itís actually real stupid.

I grew up in California in the LA area. I was once a well known member or one of the biggest gangs in the United States. This is my third time in prison. There is nothing about the hood life I donít know. This is why I have dedicated my time to warn as many people as I can about the so-called lifestyle referred to as ďThe Game.Ē I understand how hard it may be to trust me, because I can remember when I was in my teenage years, I heard an ex-gang member speak similar to how I am speaking now. I didnít trust him. I didnít wanna hear him, but to this day, I canít get past the fact that he was right.

People are already in positions to ensure your success in this country. You just have to be there. We live in a country where good things happen to us no matter what at one time or another. Even if nothing good has happened to you yet, keep living - something will. This is because of the overall cycle which is in motion. Thereís a cycle in motion within the hood, but its outcome is death or poison and, at the very least, sprang out of drugs. This is no way to live when we have the opportunity to become anything we want to. I encourage you young people, donít get caught up in worrying about what to wear to school, if it looks nice or not. Donít get caught up in not having the latest shoes, because I promise you this, it will be plenty of time for that once you have finished school and have the career you wanted. I encourage you to join the majority and be part of the solution and not the problem.

This is a country where actions speak louder than words.

Greg Wright
California

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The So-Called Game

To the young people who have been exposed to, or otherwise affected by, the so-called ďThug Life,Ē ďHood Life,Ē or what is referred to as ďThe Game,Ē this is Greg here. I am writing you from one of Californiaís most dangerous level 4 prisons. I have been to prison three times: once when I was 18, again when I was 20, and this time when I was 22. I am now 30 years old. I have been in here for 8 years with more to go. Around 2 Ĺ years ago, I began changing the way I think from negative to positive. I am an ex-member of one of the largest gangs in the United States.

When I arrived here (prison) 8 years ago, I was very negative (angry). I was gangbanging. I was involved in a lot of negative activity up until about 2 Ĺ years ago. What made me change the way I think was that the prison was on lock-down. I was in my cell with no T.V. - just me. I looked at my life. I was getting ready to turn 28, and I had noting to show for it but prison. Then I thought about all the negative things I did over my years of being a part of The Game (The Hood, etc.). I didnít like what I saw, because everything was based on hurting somebody or the possibility of me being hurt, if not killed or in prison with a life sentence. And itís true; there is no good side to living like that.

When I think back to my early years, I was around 12 or 13 years old when I was exposed to The Game (The Hood). It seemed like the right path to take at the time, so I took it, and I took everything that followed. To make a long story short, I took on the respect of the streets. I became somebody everybody in the neighborhood had best at least heard of me.

Then jail (Juvenile Hall) became a part of the game. I was so not afraid of Juvenile Hall because I had what is called the ďI donít give a **** attitude.Ē This is a condition every young person has or had or will get if they are exposed to or affected by The Game. After Juvenile Hall came camp, followed by prison.

Right now at your-all ages, I can save you from seeing those terrible places (Juvenile Hall, camp and prison) if youíre willing to hear me in this speech.

There is no house on the hills. There is no pot of gold on the other side of the rainbow. Itís all a lie. This lifestyle is designed to bring you all down; either you will turn on a so-called ďHomieĒ or a so-called Homie or Homies will turn on you. This is the truth. I write you from the mainline of one of the dangerous prisons in California, not from some protective area of the prison. It is hard for me to be seriously considered as resigned from The Game. But this is not an act. Nor can I be released any earlier than my release date. This is the truth because I honestly care about you all. I was your ages once before, so I am not just guessing.

The solution to this area of your lives is: learn how to read, write, spell and do math real good, because in this lifestyle called The Game, you will need it. You will need to know how to read so you will be able to read the charges youíre soon to be charged with. You will need to know how to write so you can write to your family or otherwise the homies who wonít write back, but family will (some). You will need to know how to spell so when you write your family so they will be able to understand why you need money on your books to buy soap and food while in jail. (These things are not free once youíre 18 or older.) And of course, you will need math because you will need to be able to add up all the money youíre making or going to make in The Game, plus youíll need math to add up all the time you will have to do off of 20 years with 85% if not more, maybe less the first time, but more the second time.

However, if you look around at all the young people your age who already know how to read, write, spell and do math, you will probably notice that they are the ones whoís been smart enough to read through The Game and know itís a road headed to nowhere fast!

I speak the truth to you all. There is nothing for me to gain in this speech. I speak from my heart. The Game is no place for none of you. It will take you down!

Greg Wright
California

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Forgotten

Forgotten by society,
Believed to be a monster,
Forgotten by destiny,
Since I was a youngster,

Forgotten by life,
In a cruel unusual way,
Forgotten and forgotten,
Day by day.

No on my side,
Everyoneís against me.
Cursed by everyone,
And no wants to bless me.

Seems like they were perfect,
To throw the first stone.
Shattered every dream,
And broke every last bone.

I want to run and hide,
But Iím exposed at last.
They see my sins
As if I was a Cinemax.

God give me strength
So I can lift myself up,
And please God, please,
Never let me give up.

The world resents me,
But your love for me is the same.
So forget the world,
Iím gonna do this in your name.

Iím gonna do this right
For You and my family,
And also to prove
I can be what I cannot be.

Iím a soldier at heart.
I come up when I go down.
I keep my head over the water
Because I refuse to drown.

Other peopleís criticism
No longer means a thing,
Because, just like me,
They are only human beings.

So please God,
Help me on this journey
And help me overcome
The obstacles before me.

Rafael Gonzalez
California

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Real Talkin

Life in this prison ainít really so easy
For you youngstas in them streets goin back and forth to Juvie.
Listen to me homie. Iím a youngsta in this game,
With twenty-three years on lock and only four down the drain.

I sadly see you soldiers goin down the wrong road
Taking on a hateful life and its hated dreadful loads.
I know the game ainít the same like back in the day,
When Gís was keepin it solid and real all the way.

Telling wasnít a issue, and homies was always there
To show you love and happiness and what we call G-care.
You're locked up and youíll see how a youngsta feels.
How the homies ainít no longer still keepin it real?

Them stripes donít mean nothing when you hit them pearly gates.
Where your homies want be with you when God tells you of your fate.
A life of hated dreams doin lots of stupid crimes.
Only take you to a place of grittin teeth and many crys.

A flame thatís never cooled and skin that never burns,
but pain that only doubles - Are you ready for your turn?

I never thought Iíd see the day that I would change my Rag.
In for a priceless string of beads with a cross that hardly sags.
Iím not a preacher or a saint. Iím just ya boy not tryna faint.
Into a life of changing ways thatís never on a steady rank.

Give me something that gives me purpose
And youíll truly see he real me surfaceÖ

Real Spirituations, for them real ones.

D.J.
California

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A Message to My Young Ones

Being a youngin who grew up in the south, I always heard ďYou work for what you eat, and you eat what youíve worked for.Ē I was raised in a setting where you either work and eat, or sleep and donít eat. (And when I say sleep, Iím not talking comfortably in a nice warm bed, but a long black box six feet underground.) A person who was raised with a silver spoon in their mouth may feel entirely different about the situation.

But look at the princes who gained their royalty by fortune alone. (Machiavelli said that ďThey do so with little effort but maintain their position only with a great dealÖ All their problems arise when they have arrived.Ē) They got it in the blink of an eye, no work or major effort, but what about once they arrive? Is that when the problems may arise?

Isnít there an opposite to each and every thing in life? For the good, thereís the bad, and your ups must have a down and vice versa.

We young ones of the last and present generation tend to have a thing for the ďEasy Life,Ē whether it be fast money, gang bangin, or doin that dope. But we fail to realize the ďoppositesĒ of life. See, I spent my whole life on the line for the bad, and now Iím at the age of 19 and serving 23 years in state prison. I was locked up at 16 from a road trip that went bad in California.

Now from the situation at hand, one may think thereís no good coming from its opposite, but hear me now: ďWhat donít kill you only makes you stronger.Ē A person can come to the conclusion that, that which is worked for can be more respected than that which is tookin, stolin, or given out of pity.

Be one who has gained royalty and power through knowledge and hard hardy work, not through foolishness and lazy spoiled upbringing, in which everything is given to you and placed in your lap.

To those who truly care and would like to gain royalty with hard work, begin working for your life instead of accepting hand outs. Itís hard climbing that ladder to success, but easy as heck to fall off.

David Cauthen, Jr.
California

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Stepping Stones

Every stone and rock in my life
Has been a painful experience, but an outcome of strife.

Every problem to which I found no solution
Has been cause to try harder and find absolution.

Every single failure and every single fall
Has been my inspiration to always give my all.

Every obstacle that seemed too high
I gave it all effort and gave it a try.

Even now that all seems lost,
I never give up no matter the cost.

Every day is a chance to do better,
So I start a new chapter letter by letter.

Mistakes will be made but I wonít be discouraged,
But find more strength to keep me encouraged.

Rafael
California

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Who Are You?

I am the one
I am the free
Except from the Shadow
That walks behind me.

Walking down this dark road
That's where I am
Trying to escape misery.
Seems like I can't.

There is little hope
For the great lot of those
Who try to escape this life
Into which they are thrown.

But for the few of us
Who respect and understand,
Who have been through the darkness
And continue to stand,

We will travel and prosper
Not settle and fail
Not moan or cry
Nor burn in our own hell.

We'll still carry
The burdens of our past
But continue to move
Despite what is had

So for you I say this
Whatever person you may be
If your going to choose
Choose to be free.

Lewis C. Lopez
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Prison

As the years go by
I feel my tears multiply
Because God took you from me.
I wish one day youíd be free.

Prison has become your home.
Why youíre always there,
I could never condone.
Come home please and stay with me!

ďThe Little PoetĒ
Gabriela Garcia

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A LITTLE GIRL

In prison inmates do not really look forward to many things. Birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries become part of this blur as each and every day are mashed into the same monotonous day. Like what my last cellie said, "Everyday is Halloween, everyday is my Birthday. It's all the same old shit day in and day out." However, there are days when we began to feel somewhat human again, rather than just a number. Those are visits.

The outcome of a visit is crucial to the mental and emotional state of mind for many inmates. The way one's visit goes can dictate one's mental predicament until the next one. If it goes well, then more power to you. If not, then may God have mercy on you. Fortunately, my visits have been wonderful and I was graced by a little girl name Kaylyn.

I woke up eyes wide open early Saturday morning. It was still dark outside as the sun just barely began to caress the horizon. I couldn't go back to sleep as the adrenaline rushed into my veins with a million thoughts racing into my mind. I will finally see my family today after a year of waiting.

My roommate was still asleep recovering from the night before. The remnant of last night was evident as the stale smell of alcohol lurked in the air. I didn't mind though. I just laid there imagining what I'd say to my family, how I'd love and miss them.

My roommate finally awoke from his deep sleep with a hangover; which prompted me to rush to the sink and brush my teeth; then I proceeded to cut my hair with a clipper, going over it several times to make sure I had not missed a hair. Afterwards I shaved my face with a razor, once again going over it several times. It had to be perfect. I wanted to look good for my family. Finally, I removed my prison blue shirt and pants from underneath my mattress, which I had neatly folded and left there until my visit. They were creased to precision as if someone had just ironed them.

Eight o'clock came and I became excited as the names of inmates were being called for visits. Some of those who got visits look jubilant, while others carried the same stone countenance they carried on a daily basis.

Three hours had passed and people began coming back from their visits. All my thoughts of happiness were replaced with anxiety and despair. "What's going on? Are they okay? Did they get into an accident, or had they simply forgot to come?Ē Fear gripped me at the last thought.

Thirty minutes later I heard my name called for a visit. I quickly got dressed and began repeatedly flashing my lights to let the Correctional Officer know that I was ready. But after close to thirty minutes, panic set in when they still didn't let me out. "You bastards are holding up my visit!" As I stood there contemplating saying those words. As soon as the door slid opened, I rushed outside not bothering to let my roommate know where I was going. I hurried across the prison yard. As friends and acquaintances waved and wished me a wonderful visit. No time to talk, I waved and hurried on.

I got to the outer visiting check-point and was stripped and searched by a slow meticulous guard. I wanted to yell, "Come on man, hurry up." but decided to exercise my dwindling patience. I reminded myself that my hassles were nothing compared to what my family had gone through. I imagined them driving all night for nine hours or more, then having to wait in line for hours to be processed through - standing outside with little or no protection from the elements, such as: rain, wind, and the hot sun. Getting through in under an hour is considered a blessing. If they wear clothes that is not acceptable, such as; blue jeans, white or blue shirts, bras with metal lining, skirts or blouses that is two inches above the knee, etc. They are given an opportunity to rummage through the used clothes that are provided by charity. Then they are told to line up in the back again. Once they made it inside, they are inspected for contrabands, making them feel as though they were criminals themselves.

Thinking of their sacrifices put me in a calm state of mind. After the guard finished inspecting me, I walked into the visiting room and began scanning for my family, but wasn't able to pick them out. I finally met my mother's eyes and at once was relieved. The feeling of joy took over.

My mother was standing there looking tired, but still had her beautiful smile when I approached. I stopped in my track, not because I was arrested by her presence, but rather by the fact that I didn't know how to greet her. My rigid culture has always preached that it was not right to show affection or hug one's family after a certain age, for men at least.

At that instant, I thought it was crazy to obey such tradition and decided to relinquish my strict upbringing and do what I felt right. I opened my arms and gave her a big hug. She paused for a second before returning the display of affection emitting tears of joy. I was surprised when she held me in her embraced longer than I expected. At that very moment, I felt this undeniable love from my mother and she in turn confirms that no matter what happens, I will always be her son.

For a second, I was consumed with my mother's love that I almost forgot to greet my older sister and younger brothers. The surprised look on their faces that my mother had shown such emotions was evident, and by the wetness in their eyes, I could tell that they were happy for me. I sat down on the dull cushioned chair adjacent to my mother and inquired how she was doing. The hard part was getting my mother to talk about herself. She is too consumed about helping others and paying little attention to herself, so what little she shared means so much to me.

While my sister Katie was asking me questions about prison life, I noticed a crib to her side. This must be my newborn niece. I looked inside and saw this beautiful angelic face. She stared intensely at me with her big beautiful brown eyes. It looked as if she didn't have a care in the world. All she was focused on was sucking her thumb and this stranger staring at her.

I couldn't resist any longer. I had to pick her up. I lifted her up and cradled her in my left arm, and with my right hand I fed her with her star covered baby bottle. With her free hand, she held on to my shirt and snuggled in my arm, and for a moment she made me forget that I was in prison. I felt peace and joy just by holding her.

Kaylyn didn't come again until the following year at which time she was about one and a half. She could barely walk, but somehow managed to stand up on her own. She looked like a baby doll wobbling back and forth every time she stood up, and she never cried or frowned whenever she fell.

I couldn't help but to take her around and show her off to my friends and their family. My friends thought she was adorable. They asked if they could hold her. Knowing that some of my friends haven't held a baby in years convinced me to let them hold her.

She seemed to be as comfortable in someone else's arms as she was in mine. Kaylyn seemed to enjoy the attention that she was receiving. Not saying much, Kaylyn would giggle and laugh when people made faces or funny noises.

After close to a year of not seeing my family, especially Kaylyn, I was becoming anxious, always asking my family when the next time I could see my niece again. She finally came, but the prison at the time was going through major turmoil. Tensions ran high as the prison was inundated with racial riots and staff assaults. The occurrence had brought down a very glommed environment among all its residents and staffs. It was as though the wall had become grayer. As one old convict put it, "In prison one's program or even one's life can be changed in a heartbeat."

Kaylyn had grown; she was almost three years old now. She looked adorable in her star spangled white and pink sweats. She even had pretty little pink shoes to match her outfit. I could see her beaming with joy bouncing behind the two foot visiting table, pretending to hide from me. I was so happy to see her, but a little worried that she might not remember me. My fear melted away when she rushed over to give me a hug. "Who's your favorite uncle?" I asked. "Yo ar, unca Tuan!" in her sweet baby voice. The only word that was lucid was my name. I lifted her up as far as my hands could reach and spinned in a circle. She laughed and giggled uncontrollably. "Mo unca Tuan!" Just like the last time she came, I took her around and introduced Kaylyn to some of my friends that had been asking for her. Kaylyn would crossed her arms and bow her head like she had been taught. She attempted to repeat what I just said, but instead, she mumbled, "Ha ar Yuu?"

After all the introduction, I brought her back to our table. My family and I began conversing. We had lots to talk about. While we were deeply in our conversation not paying attention to Kaylyn. She wandered off.

Panic gripped my heart. I knew that we were in a safe area, but this is still prison, and due to the current situation on the yard, I wasn't sure if she would be well received by other inmates.

We began scanning the room. Our worries were quickly laid to rest when we saw her playing with a black family. She wasn't actually playing but rather stacking the chess pieces. We could see that the family was enamored with her. "Tuan, go get your niece, she's interrupting other people's visit," my sister pleaded.

I went over and apologized for I did not know what she was up to. To my surprise, the family implored that she's nothing but a joy. They were hoping that she could stay a little longer.

The inmate explained, "Man, your niece is so cool. She kicked it with us like she is our folks. She doesn't seem to mind about my tattoo, or the fact that we have different color skins." After taking her away from the reluctant family, I found her again a few minutes later walking in between a black couple holding their hands. She walked around the visiting room as though they were her parents. She giggled and laughed when they lifted her up. I was amazed that Kaylyn could gravitate toward a complete stranger. She didn't seem to have a care in the world.

My sister, Katie was getting a little frustrated with Kaylyn for wandering off again. I tried to reassure her that nothing was going to happen to Kaylyn. I explained that some inmates haven't seen their children in years and others don't have children, so they treat Kaylyn as their own baby. But that didn't ease her worries or frustration with Kaylyn.

Katie tried to wave Kaylyn over, but Kaylyn pretended not to see or hear her mother. That only further upset her mom. My sister once again finally got Kaylyn's attention and gave her the coldest stared and waved her over. Kaylyn reluctantly let go of their hands and mumbled something to them. I could tell by the look on Kaylyn's face that she was afraid of her mother.

The couple escorted Kaylyn over and praised Kaylyn for being such a sweet and well behaved girl. They even joked about adopting and bringing her home. My sister managed a faint smile after hearing their comments. After seeing her mom smile, Kaylyn began to relax, believing that she was off the hook.

Not long after receiving a stern lecture from her mom, we realized that Kaylyn had wandered off again. This time we had found her talking to this Caucasian inmate. This inmate shook my mom, because he doesn't look like any ordinary guy. Kaylyn was talking to a guy who stood 6'8Ē and weighed close to 300 pounds. He had muscles bulging out of his shirt. He could have easily been a football player, but instead is serving a life sentence for murder.

Fortunately, he was a friend of mine. I tried to reassure my family that my friend "Tom" is harmless, but it didn't ease their worries one bit. "Go get you niece before she upsets someone or gets herself into trouble," my sister once again pleaded.

I walked over to where Kaylyn was and I could hear her and Tom talking about the candies in her hand. I'm pretty sure Tom didn't understand what Kaylyn was saying, but he pretended to conversate with her anyway. I told Tom that I needed to take her back before her mom gets mad.

When I got Kaylyn back to the table, my mom discovered that she had a dollar bill in her hand. The look of embarrassment was evident on my mom's face. "See, I told you your niece was going to get herself into trouble," my sister angrily pointed out. My mom asked that I bring Kaylyn back with the money and apologize.

Tom was talking to his girlfriend when he saw us coming. He motioned to his girlfriend to turn around and they both smiled. We got to their table and I asked Kaylyn to cross her hands and bow her head, which she did. I asked her to say sorry, but instead she mumbled something that I didn't understand. So I pointed to her hand and explained that the money belongs to my friend.

Kaylyn somewhat understood what I was saying and tried to return the money she was holding in her left hand. But Tom refused to take the money. He would pull his hands away when ever she tried to put the money in his hand.

Kaylyn figured that her plea wouldn't work and quickly turned to diplomacy by offering him a handful of melted M&M's from her right hand. The M&M's were so dilapidated they no longer resembled their former color or size. Though Tom hesitated, he willingly took the M&Ms from her hand and pretended to eat them, causing Kaylyn to emit a giggle. He then raised his enormous hands and coax Kaylyn to give him a low five, which Kaylyn playfully obliged. She smacked her right hand which had been holding the M&M's on top of Tom's giant hand. The melted M&M's now glued to Tomís hand causing him to make several faces and grunts. That only made Kaylyn laughed harder. Tom couldn't help, but smile and laughed along at the sight of Kaylyn jumping up and down laughing. Watching them interact toward each other causes one to believe that they must be best friends.

Tom later explained that he playfully tried to buy the M&Ms from Kaylyn. She had refused to sell them, but managed to walk away with his money as well.

After visiting that day, one inmate wanted me to know that being with Kaylyn gave him hope of being a better father to his children when he gets out. Other inmates requested that I bring her back as soon as possible. Kaylyn came back the next day, but she wasn't feeling well. She wasn't outgoing as the day before. The whole day, she wanted to be held by either her mom or grandmother. At the end of our visit, she was walking up the ramp heading towards the exit. For some reason she stopped midway, looked back at me for a few seconds and ran back down to give me a big hug. She didn't seem to hear my family or the guard yelling at her to stop running. Maybe she did, but chose not to listen.

Kaylyn held on to me as though she didn't want to let go and neither did I. I guess we both knew that we won't see each other again until sometime next year.

P.S. It's funny how we are constantly searching for happiness in things that do not make sense. We choose money, materialistic things, or a broken relationship, but none seems to make us happier. Then you look at something so simple as a sweet little girl like Kaylyn, who through her innocence and color blindness, she manages to touch hearts and break down stereotypes. It was by watching her that I began to appreciate the time when things were simpler and we did not have a care in the world. I believe that there will always be that little boy or girl in us, flickering like a candle in the winds of change. All we have to do is keep it lit.

Mike Doan
California

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The Painted Faces on TV

You see them on TV,
you see them roaming the streets,
sleeping on park benches
and waiting for an uncertain meal
at the local church,

On signs, newspapers, and book reports.
But in statistics
is where they are best formed.

They are everywhere
and yet,
no one seems to notice them,
no one seems to care.
No one bothers to stop
and listen to their stories.
We must keep our busy stride
nothing can stop
the mighty giant of progress...

To face this dilemma
is not a matter at hand.
Let someone else
take care of their pain;
let someone else bear the blame...
Itís best to ignore
than to absorb
the inexplicable tragedy
going on right outside the shelter
of our own doors...

They are
the dirty patches staining
our shiny cities,
the unaccounted few
who will soon die
by crushing winter storm - in our hearts.

G. Alvarado
California

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Grey

Grey floor, grey door and grey wall.
No black and no white in grey I see it all.
Grey sky, grey clouds and grey air.
Grey is the color that shows I donít care.

For a long time grey is all I have seen.
No black and no white, only inbetween.
I care for neither but Iíll go either way.
Just take me away from this indifferent grey.

Will I go where itís black with no hope and no light?
Or will I go where itís white, where itís sunny and bright?
Make up your mind and tell me where to go.
This anxious color grey is breaking my soul.

Will you take away my hopes
For doing something I regret
Or will you give me back my dreams
And place your own bet.

Tell me if Iím done, if everything is lost;
But take me away from this slowly killing grey
Because itís better to know Iím done,
Than to lose hope every day.

Rafael
California

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Not Merely a Dream

It must be great,
to one day wake up
and hear
that peace in our world
is no longer a myth;
and that
the hunger of millions
has been finally quenched.

It sure would be fantastic
to one day wake up
and learn
that all our borders
have finally crumbled...
that our humanity
has triumphed
over the hostilities of hate.

It must be ecstatic
to one day open my eyes
and see all the people
celebrating the power of love
and not
the might of their cannons

It must be great
to one day wake up
and realize
that was not
just a dream.

G. Alvarado
California

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Back Again

Why am I such an idiot and how come I canít ever learn
Maybe itís karma, for all the bridges that I have burned.
But whatever the reasons, I must still do my time
For I was found guilty, of yet another crime.

I picked up that spike in hopes of having fun
I ended up in prison when it was all said and done.
Maybe this addiction is far worse than I thought,
Iím wearing silver bracelets every time I get caught.

But it gives me a chance to get back on my feet
And have a better shot at life when Iím out on the street.
But until that day happens, Iíll go with the grain.
I know its causing my family a lot of unwanted pain.

Thatís the main thing that makes me want to stop;
This life of a criminal, always running from the cops.
I hate the fact that Iím the one they all worry about
And when I get the chance, Iíll try harder just to stay out.

I know it looks like I kind of enjoy coming back here;
To tell you the truth I hate this shit, year after year.
At the end of my tunnel I can still see a little light;
Hopefully this is the last obstacle Iíll have to fight.

Iíll never give up, because I am strong, with a lot of heart;
I know for a fact that I have one more start.
To all and everyone who doesnít want to believe or trust
I promise to do really do whatever I must.

A Prisoner
California

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Happiness is Limited Living Amongst Hate

Happiness is limited
If youĎre living amongst hate.
Depression is heavy.
People find this out too late.

My lifeless eyes
Show sorrow and fear
Depressed and confused,
Wishing death would be near.

I canít quite understand
Why I feel so much pain,
Why I feel so much sorrow,
I think cursed is my name.

My life is unimportant
To those who act like they care.
I can read it in their face
By the expressions they wear.

Iíve witnessed three deaths
And yet Iím still a child.
Iíve lost four friends just
For living life wild.

My story is confusing
But if you listen youíll understand
That I grew up in the streets
Without no oneís helping hand.

Yet I lost another friend,
Another person like me,
Another place in my mind
With a sad memory.

My misery is great;
I canít say I wasnít warned.
Itís weird, cause my Dad died
The day I was born.

Eliel
California

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A Broken Wish

I never imagined,
That I would have got lost
Doing the things Iíve done,
Not knowing the cost.

But as I write this,
I am feeling my shame.
Iíve done this myself,
I have to accept the blame.

If I could turn back the
Hands of time, I would.
Doing only the things
That I know I should,

Like studying hard when
I was in school
Instead of being a thug,
Thinking I was cool.

I never thought
That I would have ended up here.
It feels like I canít change,
And thatís my fear . . .

Iíll stay strong, while Iím stuck
Behind these stone walls.
When I walk these prison yards,
I always stand tall.

And when I finally get out,
Iíll have another slim shot at life.
Itís like slowly committing suicide
With a really dull knife...

I wonít ever run
From the system or hide,
My heart just pumps
With way too much pride.

I just want everyone to hear
What I have to say,
I must do it soon,
Or find another way.

I need to move on
And turn this page instead
Of doing what I do,
Or Iíll wind up dead.

So Iíll just be patient and
I hope you are too,
Because if itís only a wish
It will never come true.

A Prisoner
California

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Addicted

I want it. I need it.
Itís something I must have.
Feaning for this game
Like a crack-head in rehab.

Orange flags, blue flags,
What do it all mean?
Is it me addicted to this hood
Life like crack for a dope fean?

I donít understand
Why I canít get it right.
Is it cause Iím like a crack-head
Refusing to give up the pipe.

Many excuses for what I did,
From where I came and what Iíve done.
The only difference from me and a crack-head
Is he has a pipe and I have a gun.

Weapons of destruction
Being past amongst each other.
Why instead of helping the black man
I would kill the next brother.

Gang banging, dope slanging,
Crack smoking and shooting-up.
All trends of the community
All of us never gave up.

Itís kind of hard to stop banging
When you have been doing it for so long.
Like the streets to a crack-head,
The streets will always be your home.

No matter how much we try
A lot of us fail to succeed.
Like an old wound pealed
Its only destiny is to bleed.

Some wounds can be healed
And some just canít.
Some addicts will admit their fears
And some just ainítÖ

Addicted.

D.J.
California

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Gangstas Annonymous

(Class One - Admission)

Hi, my name is DJ
And Iím addicted to the game
A world of evil nature,
Hateful thoughts and constant pain.

Gangbangin and dope slangin
Was the life that I was gave.
From the womb of a lonely Mother,
To the streets I was made.

A broken home, a shattered heart,
No lights ever revealed,
The cries of a burning baby,
With the flames needing to be shield.

The pain in my heart
Was slowed down by violence.
But then I was alone,
Coming down left with silence.

The pain was still there,
Even stronger than before,
So off to the streets I headed
In search of a violent war.

I really need help
Because Iím hurting inside,
And with the addictions to this game,
Many people have died.

I donít wanna leave this life
Searchin for ways to cover the pain
Always searchin after the first time
Because the high is never the same.

Doin anything for the game
Losing family and killing the brain
Failing to realize the fact
That Iím the one implanting the pain.

Like the leaves of a tree,
I continue to fall
Into a hole darkened by anger
With pain thatís barely small.

See I want to stand up
And be able to stand tall
But before a baby can walk,
A baby must learn to crawl.

With all this said and done,
Iím now realizing my pain.
By taking the first step to getting help,
And admitting Iím addicted to the game.

D.J.
California

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Archives of Memories

Glancing at the vast emptiness,
Reaching as far as the mind can imagine.
I pause -
To take in another breath.

Days
waiting for a letter
that never seems to arrive -
Placing phone calls
to an unaccepting line...
This is the reality
of what is now my life.

Iíve become a shadowy figure -
an afterthought
at the dinner table.
I am the son who lost his way
in the turbulent currents
of youthful rebellion.

I remember
when my life was much simpler,
when a smile from mama chabe
let me know all was going to be okay.
Those days are over now -
no more,
no more.
I am a trapped man
condemned to live my life
with other men
who like me
traded their freedom
for a few moments of wild fun...

No one takes notice,
No one seems to care.
No one wants to see
their own reflection disappearing
with the erosion
of their own yesterdayís dream
and childhood emotionsÖ

Everyone just wants to sleep.

G. Alvarado
California

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I WONDER

As I sit here wondering what life has done for me,
I wonder.

Will I ever wake up from this bad dream Iím living in?
I wonder.

Thinking about the ones I left behind,
Will I ever see them again
On the outside of these walls?
I wonder.

My life has left we wondering
If I can change my ways for the better.
I wonder.

Only you or I can change ourselves
From wondering what we can do
About changing ourselves.
I wonder

Vika Pea
California

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ONE DAY AT A TIME

Lord, today Iím just sitting on my bed
facing the wrong way,
but hearing the right words;
Your words of Love, Care,
Compassion and Obedience.
How your grace has brought me to you.
You said with you, you would make me alive;
feeling, growing in your sweet love.

Well, today I had to remove myself
from what I felt
was going to turn into a bad situation.
You and your Spiritual Sight
helped me see before it got started.
I can remember before you came into my life,
I would have stayed
and possibly been in chaos,
but today is a new day, a new person.

Today I canít change someone else
but I can change me.
How faithful and true you are.
You said with you I would see a new person.
One Day at a time

Monique Williams
New Jersey

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WASTED YOUTH

I am chained, under lock, and key.
From youth Iíve been here wasting away.
No calls, no cares . . . no one cries for me.
Iíve wasted my youth chasing fast dreams,
gleaming things, pretty young things.

Take heed, watch yourself, if you donít die.
you could find yourself inside, the place
I reside. If you are lucky your family will
stand by your side, but if not, then they
like your friends will say . . . Goodbye!!!

Pedro Concepcion
New Jersey

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EDUCATION... THE KEY TO YOUR FUTURE

ďIím bored.Ē ďShe doesnít like me.Ē ďItís too boring!Ē ďShe wonít help me.Ē ďSheís always too busy for me.Ē How often I have heard those and many other remarks. After the remarks, there is either a change, bad grade, or dropping out of school. Your education is so very important, please donít waste it.

I never took advantage of my education. The only time I really applied myself was to play sports. When I wasnít playing sports, I was drinking. I knew that drinking wouldnít make me a better student. Then I went to college. During a sober moment, I decided to major in education. I wanted to work with all ages of the emotionally disturbed. I loved the challenge. I loved teaching, but because of my drinking I may never teach again.

Your education is the key. The biggest key to your future. Put that key on a string around your neck; never loose it no matter what you go through. No matter what happens in that classroom, if you talk to your teacher something can be worked out. Your teacher is a human being too; believe it or not, they have problems and feelings too. Sometimes it is hard for teachers to leave their troubles at the door too. Maybe they are hard to get along with because they are having problems. Maybe they have a sick family member, problems with their children, problems at work, worried about paying the bills, an addiction, etc.

Talk to them, share with them your concerns, donít ever compromise your education. I believe if you talk to them the way you would like to be spoken to, amazing things will happen. So take some time to really get to know your teacher. You see I am faced with a dilemma, I let my addiction take from me my teaching career. I drank even while I taught. I believed the more I drank the better teacher I was. See how cunning and baffling our addictions can be. I taught for many years while drinking and now I will never be able to make amends to those children. So think, remember the key to your future and please donít waste it.

Midge DeLuca
New Jersey

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SCARED

I am driven,
motivated,
inspired,
often crippled, by fear.
Failure is an option
and success is scripted.
If I fail at this life,
it will be said:
ďI always knew he would
turn out like that.Ē
Should I succeed,
it will be said
ďI always knew he could do it.Ē
so Iím afraid,
the double standards,
double talk,
and hypocrisy that govern us,
stalk me like a shadow in an alley.
How I felt has never mattered,
only what others think.
I carry around the pain
like so many nickels and dimes,
while others poke fun
at my insecurities.
And why not? Iím afraid.
afraid to fail
afraid to succeed,
afraid to be the man,
whoever he is!

Eugene Thomas
New Jersey

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AN EPIPHANY

Things change.
Everything that was
no longer is.
Different ideals
form new actions.
Who am I?
Who are you?
I ask ---
no answer
just a gust of wind
sweeping my pleas away ---
We are living in a bizarre dream,
a misperception of what it means to be.
What do we really know
about being warriors
dying for a righteous cause?
To who do I owe my loyalty to?
To the green-walkers
whose actions are only mechanical
and without feeling or thought .
. . or to my homeboys
if any, at all exist . . .?
I hear many theories
on how life should be
and what some of us
should do with ourselves;
but what should I do ---
sit around and wait for others
to decide my fate?
And maybe catch another ten, or fifty
more years . . . better yet, that
life sentence the Judge reserved for
a later time
will be finally mine.
Each day the battle
to keep my sanity
amidst this madness continues . . .
Once, or twice
Iíve wanted to give up
to throw my hands up
and surrender to the worst part of me. Iím sick and tired
of being clueless
in my own life.
I need a reason to continue
not a mysterious gain
for the good in me
Iím trying to recuperate.
Once again
I am pestered by ideals
not of my own
founded to fight a cause
which up to this moment
I donít have a clue
of what exactly
it is supposed to be about . . .
--- Here I am ---
stuck in my cell
listening to my cellie describe
in detail, the latest building fight
only two cells down from mine.
--- Here I am ---
choking on mace
on unseen particles of poison
left to graze on my lungs ---
polluting my mind
with more questions of ---
ďWhy?Ē

G. Alvarado
California

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PATHS

As a young teenager I always thought of the possibility of getting incarcerated one day even though I graduated high school and eventually went to college for 4 years. I was caught up in the sub-world of drugs when I was 13 years old. I managed to keep in on the "down-low," masquerading and hiding it from my family. I was so good at hiding my extra-curricular activities that even my father, who is a psychiatrist on drugs and alcohol, didn't have a clue. Totally ironic, right?

I was raised in Puerto Rico where crime and drug use are sky high. I used to hang out with individuals older than me (twice my age). I felt I belonged with them instead of my high school friends that were too "naive" for me. Well ... I was naive too.

I skipped stages in my life - from a child I stepped into a woman's shoes. At 15 years old I was already packing and cutting drugs. When the drug market seemed too "hotĒ or risky, I started dealing with weapons. I became an expert on them by the age of 17 - cleaning and taking guns apart, filing the serial number, and selling them.

I managed to graduate high school in Puerto Rico with excellent grades, so I cam to New York to go to college. My drug habit escalated and a normal, legal job wasn't paying enough for rent, clothes, and especially that habit. I continued to work in different places but I felt empty. I was in love with living the fast life, on the edge. I'm the kind of woman that doesn't like to be bossed around, I like to set my own rules.

Well not anymore. I'm 29 years old and serving a 15 year sentence (with 85%) for shooting a police officer. I've been inside these walls for a year and a half; my bust is only starting. This is what living the fast life got me, a quarter of my life in this hellhole. This is real and it can happen to anyone. Not everybody here has committed a violent crime. On the contrary, the majority are on drug-related charges.

I don't believe in the efficacy of incarceration. In a way, I always thought differently than what is already established. I know that everybody is not going to be in the same line of thought, but we have got to think collectively and come up with better alternatives. How do we do that in a socio-economic structure that believes in demolishing a school to build up a youth detention facility? We need to organize and educate ourselves. When people stop entering and festering inside these walls then we will challenge an obsolete system. Until then which path are you going to take?

Bibi
New Jersey

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HANGING ON BY A THIN STRING

I'm hanging as hard as I can to a very thin string,
The string of life and of a human being.

The string that goes through the core of your heart
And the string that's keeping me from falling apart.

Life is like a string - you make it thicker or thinner.
If your heart is into it then it gets bigger and bigger.

Depressed is how you'll live if depressed is how you feel,
But if you fight for happiness then the feeling can be real.

I've been through hard times just like everyone else,
But I live in the future and let the past take care of itself.

There's many chapters in my life I would like to erase,
But I leave them alone and live life page by page.

I can't keep regretting and living life in the past,
So I think about the future and try to take the right path.

I know I'm not perfect but I always try my best,
Put a smile on my face and ignore the barb wire fence.

I try to finish the puzzle taking it piece by piece
Until the Lord calls my name and it's time to rest in peace.

Rafael G.
California

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REALIZATION

Iím back once again
Alone in this zone,
Behind bars in an evil place far from home.
Same pain in my heart, same thoughts in my head,
Same late nights up thinking about the evil crowds I lead.
Sometimes I sit and wonder, what if all thangs could change,
To go back into time instead of walking down this memory lane.

Iím back once again, countin day after day
Only thang to look forward to is my next dinner plate.
No mail tonight, better luck tomorrow.
No love comin to me, maybe my cellie got some I can borrow.
Eighteen bars and three walls to stare at
Twenty three years at war, with soldiers for me to bear with.

Iím back once again, next day same time,
Same stressful ass questions running through my mind.
How did I get here? Where did I start?
How did I come from a star in the spotlight to just another figure in the dark?
It all happened so fast, like at the drop of a dime.
I awoke from my dream and realized this life is truly mine!

Iím back once again!!

DJ
California

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TO MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS CAUGHT UP IN THE FIXATION OF GANG LIFESTYLE!

First and foremost Iíve been in the same situation many years ago trying to find my place in life! But I must tell you that thereís nothing good that comes from being a gang member!

True, you have some good times but in the end you wind up going to a lot of funerals or visiting a lot of prisons! Now if thatís your idea of a life then the gang scene is for you, drugs, murder, mayhem, prison, and death!

Oh yeah, while youíre hanging out with your homies and home girls drinking, getting high, fighting rival members, or just committing any kind of crime, itís all cool! But when it turns into a life or death situation then you want to take time to reflect and question your present position in life!

What I want to do is make you question that life style now! Ask yourself, do you really want to spend your life in prison under the control of some else 24-7? Or how about dodging bullets every time you walk to the store? Maybe you would like to bury someone every other week?

Itís up to you! But the gang life is for people who donít care about life.

Open your eyes and reflect before itís too late. Also remember that squares donít go to prison so itís hip to be square!

With love, Willie Thomas
California

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THE IRON DOOR

Behind these gates where I do time, no fun or games you will find. No grass to touch, no birds to sing, the only escape is in your mind. But if your mental strength is weak, youíll find yourself boggled down with the confusion which flows throughout this place.

So if you value your liberty to smell the flowers, touch the grass, hear the beautiful birds sing, do not cross the threshold to this place. This is not home, and there is no peace to be found. Youíll not only wish you were in Kansas, but any other place than here. You do not have the liberty to move about, youíll find yourself wishing you stayed out.

Pondering the ďwhyís,Ē ďIf I could-would,Ē ďshoulda,Ē will not get from this place. Youíll be wishing you could sprout wings to fly around like the little bird on the ledge. Because no matter how hard its life may be, the bird is truly free indeed.

STAY AWAY, STAY AWAY! Do not rush to grow up; enjoy your childhood and childís play. Behind these gates youíll grow up fast if you donít die before youíre free, youíll find yourself dwelling on the past; living in dailyÖ Misery!

Pedro Conception
New Jersey

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RETROSPECT

It has been said that hindsight is 20/20. That means looking back at things gives you perfect vision. One question that seems to come up a lot is this: if you had it to do all over again, what would you change? Many would say that this question is useless because you canít change the past. Or can you? Is retrospect completely without benefit? I say no! But, what could I possibly gain from looking back at my life and identifying where I went wrong?

My personal story goes like this: I grew up on the south side of Chicago. When I was fourteen I took my first taste of beer and began to experiment with drugs. This in itself doesnít send you to prison for the rest of your life, so what went wrong? I chose to continue to get high because I thought it was what made me accepted and a part of something. Eventually, I got addicted and began to commit crime to pay for my habit. At this point, I liked drugs and no longer got high to please others, but to please myself. I dropped out of high school and went to school high. It wasnít long before my one small bad choice led me into the criminal justice system as a juvenile and then as an adult. As an adult in the system, I continued to make one bad decision after another until I ended up with life without parole for killing another inmate. Again, this choice wasnít so much my own as it was made to ďbe downĒ with the others. Now I write this story; it is the PG version.

I have much time to think about the choices I have made and how I would have handled them differently if I had it to do all over again. This has helped me tremendously because I can see clearly where I went wrong. ďHe who does not learn from his mistakes, is bound to repeat them.Ē We learn from repetition and sometimes the hard way, but it doesnít have to be like that. What I can impart to you about my life can equip you with the tools to sidestep this path and make your choices based upon my mistakes, not your own.

Hereís how it works; I chose to do the things I did because I thought they would matter to those I ran around with. Some sick rite of passage into manhood; yeah right! Anyway, I continued to make choices with this flawed method for years. It wasnít until about five years ago I realized what is cool and accepted and what is best for me is what is right. In a way, I got selfish. I began to look at myself for who I was, rather than be concerned about what the next guy is thinking about me. This means standing up on your own two feet and representing you as you.

How does this help me today and more importantly how can it help you? Learn from the mistakes of others as you wonít live long enough to make them all yourself. As for me, Iíd be a fool to repeat mistakes that I know will only lead to more failure. Refuse to lose, and be yourself!!!

Eric Daniels
New Jersey

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A RIDE

We were two good friends who went for a ride.
Never knew it was our last and weíd say goodbye.
She was my friend and my brotherís wife.
Why didnít God take me and save her life?
Laying on the roadside, itís a cold, dark night.
Can you hear me friend? Everything will be all right.
Bleeding to death, I canít move, not even feel.
Where is my friend? Sheís quiet. Whatís the deal?
I woke up in ICU and started to cry.
They just broke the news that my friend had died.
No one knows what happened that night,
But the prosecutor is ready to fight.
ďDrinking and driving,Ē thatís what they say
And now itís time for me to pay.
The prosecutor is trying to cut a deal.
No amount of time can take how I feel.
You were my good friend, my very best.
But now the family has laid you to rest.

A Remorseful Inmate
New Jersey

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I HEARD THIS IN A WHISPER

I heard somewhere
that the moon
is the counterweight
of earth . . .

That thereís nothing
more beautiful
than the radiating cry
of a newborn.

That the miracle
of life itself
is embedded in our genes . . .
that one day
is not missing from May,
and some birds
migrate to a far off land
to renew their song.

I also heard
in a midnight whisper
that tomorrow
is not an argument
to be discussed
that today
in all its presence
is the best moment
we have.

G. Alvarado
California

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PRISON LIFE

It is very hard living here in prison. I am a 43 year old woman. I feel so much sorrier for the younger people here and in other prisons. I canít image what it must be like to have to grow up here in such a gloomy, dismal place with barely the basics to survive and more rules and regulations than you can imagine. This is a very cold place lacking love and concern for your wants and needs.

You are no longer an individual person; you are now just a number. If you have issues from abuse or neglect when you get here, you will have twice as many when you leave. This place is full of negativity and peace is a dream for the future. The food is not the best and the medical care has a lot to be desired. You can no longer decide what you want to eat, wear, or even what time you want to get up; you go according to their schedule and what they decide.

So, I beg all young people to make better choices now, so you will still be able to make your own decisions later. It is only by the grace and mercy of God that I can make it through this.

Marianne Brown
New Jersey

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A DEBTORíS CRY

I sit in a prison, long hours to spend,
Sitting and waiting, until my years come to an end.
I stare and listen, and hear the faint cries
Of those who call out, ďOh me, oh why?Ē
Life was so good, I had it all,
Now all I can do is stare at these walls.
Iím told when to eat and how long to shower,
I soon canít wait for another hour.

Time goes by, oh so slow, why I got
Involved, Iíll never know.
The streets were rough, I had no love,
Only that which came from above.

I wish I knew that, what I know now,
For Iíll keep fighting; I wonít throw in the towel.

Itís all too late, I must reap what Iíve sown.
There is one who loves, without a cause,
It does not matter, if you broke His laws.
He always forgives with . . .
His arms open wide.
ďI will forgive you,Ē was His cry.
I knew I must pay for that which I have done.
For Iíve taken the life of somebodyís son.
I wish I could change that which is passed.

The pain inside me, I hope wonít last,
I have been bought with a price.
As His blood flowed out,
It was for me, I have no doubt.

Livingston
New Jersey

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WHAT I DIDNíT SEE

I never saw
My parents
Love,
Kiss,
Hug
Or share a secret smile
With each other.

I never saw
My parents
Cry,
Hate
Argue
With one another . . .
I never saw my parents,
Together, once.

I am no longer a child
But sometimes
I feel
Like crawling
Under my bed -
To weep out
My sorrows

G. Alvarado
California

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BROKEN HEART

Every day in prison is filled with sadness and pains.
For I long to be with my loved ones,
But instead I am a loner shackled up in chains.
With my heart broken and nothing to release my pains.
My heart doesnít cry,
But my tears swell up inside.
People they said, ďgrown men donít cry.Ē

Mike D.
California

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TODAY A MOTHER CRIED

Look at what drugs and alcohol did!
It took the life of another kid.

Drugs and alcohol took him away,
If it wasnít for that,
He would be here today.

Even with no wealth,
His Mom waged a war on drugs herself.
Through blood, sweat and tears,
She went to bad neighborhoods
Even in fear.

But her message would be said,
This valiant war on drugs she led.
Substance abuse left her son dead!
Home sweet home denied,
Her son would never again
Be by her side.

Buried in a shallow grave.
His Mom kneels as she prays.
I hate the drugs dealers who killed my son.
Please God, donít let this happen to another one.

Today a Mother cried!

Deborah Steen
New Jersey

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SORROWS OF MY SOUL

Into the night I find myself drifting awayÖ
Childhood memories tried to imbue my soul.

Nothing seems the same -
Iím trapped in the land of no returnÖ
Where has my mind gone?
Many good memories
Have been shattered
By the enveloping darkness
Now shadowing my life.

Nothing seems the same.
I am no longer
The wide-eyed boy
Who once lived
In a magical land
Of dreams and adventuresÖ
Where have my childhood dreams gone?

Deliver me
Oí beautiful night,
Of this sorrow in my soul.
I need your secret stillness
To bring a new dream
Into my broken down soul.

G. Alvarado
California

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HOW WILL I SURVIVE?

How will I survive,
If I ainít have Mommy by me side?
Is there any hope?
Only time will tell -
Because what I feel is like Iím living in hell.

Lock him up! Throw away the key!
Just like his father, a wanna be!

Whatever happened to my boys,
My so-called homies?
Today they act
Like they donít know me.

Thirty to life
Thatís the price
Iíll have to pay
For taking someoneís life.

All I wanted was a piece of the pie.
Now I am locked up in a cell 6 x 9.

Echoes of mercy, whispers of love,
Visions of freedom are all in the past.

How will I survive?
How will I survive?
If I ainít got Mommy by me side.


Reprinted with permission from the magazine "Inside Out"
New Jersey State Prison

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THE VALUE OF TEARS

I have a secret,
Itís a pastime of sortsÖ
It may seem odd
To those overcome
By their own sickening pride.

Itís a sacred place I go -
Nothing can touch me while Iím there;
It offers me unending shelter when Iím down,
A great deal of understanding
When nothing else makes sense.
It protects me
From the hell Iíve helped createÖ
Only through teary eyes
Am I able to see life
Dressed in her magnificent beautyÖ

Yes!
I cry -

I cry while I roam the depths of my being.
I cry when I find it is the only way
To pacify the fire burning inside.
I cry when I no longer can stand
To witness the plague of injustices
Spreading to underserved handsÖ

As a child I cried for my motherís milk.
As a boy I cried rivers
Of anger, shame and prideÖ
Now as a man,
I cry to alleviate the pain consuming my heart.

G. Alvarado
California

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A BEATING HEART

Mom, donít leave me in this garbage,
the odor in here I canít stand.
How can you leave me to die this way?
I was just born on this very day.
Itís so dark in here and cold.
Couldnít you just have taken me home?
Why are you leaving me all alone?
Mommy, I have feelings, a beating heart.
Please put me back in your little safe spot.

I would have made a good daughter to you.
When you got to know me,
you would have loved me, too!
Call someone! Tell them Iím alive.
Look at me, I have your eyes!
Please donít leave me here to die!
Please Mommy, help me!
Iím so cold and blue.
It doesnít matter that you are young too.
I should have loved and grown up with you.

Please think about the things that you do.
Sex at a young age isnít right for you.
Think about it from a babyís point of view.
Help is out there:
Parents Anonymous

Deborah Steen
New Jersey

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LIFE IS OUR TEACHER

Life is our teacher, teaching us with good experiences and with painful onesÖ
The painful days difficult to understand, but it is from these troubled times that we learn to be strong.

We learn to hold on and face each day, even though we hurt and feel frustratedÖ
We learn that the simple pleasures are often the most rewarding.
And we learn that losing is often only another step towards winning.

And when life turns its smiling side to use again, as it always does,
we find ourselves stronger, with a greater knowledge of ourselves,
and able to feel the welcomed comfort of good times even more deeply than before.

Robert Armour
New Jersey

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USE OF TALENT

Many in desperate circumstances fail to realize that everyone has a certain talent in some area or areas. Finding what that is, along with which one of your talents you are most interested in, can be the key to success when you believe you are in a struggle where all odds are stacked against you.

Of course, there are obviously extremely talented sports superstars and rappers who have gone from rags to riches, but there are many more obscure ways to pursue goals that many never even think about. However, there really are endless examples of using the talent you possess to further your life along legitimate means, rather than to use it toward pursuing the opposite. One example is the ability to manipulate people. If you can manipulate people into engaging in crime, you can turn that talent into marketing yourself as a good employee or a student deserving financial aid to pursue vocational training or college. Additionally, you may have the ability to be in sales by marketing a product to consumers.

Another example is the person who believes he can successfully operate a drug enterprise. The downside of deciding to go into this line is obvious, the chance of jail or being the victim of violence by rivals. If you think you have all the knack of operating such a scheme and maximizing the profits, you probably have the basics of a business mind. Starting at a low level position and informing your superiors of different marketing ideas, cost cutting innovations and serving customers will put you on the right track. Just believing in yourself, and viewing things from the perspective that you know how to succeed in the illegal world where there are laws prohibiting virtually every action you take, should make it much easier in the world of free enterprise where you are operating legally. With these kinds of skills, a long range goal could be a business of your own. If you can impress people along the way by demonstrating to them in concrete terms where they maximize their profits and customer appeal because of your ideas, they can become willing to invest in a business premised on your concepts.

This may look too high of a goal from your present position, but think positive. Take small steps, remain determined, and do not think the negative thoughts of certain things are impossible. Everything is possible with the right spirit and determination.

A. Rodziewicz
New Jersey

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AS A LITTLE GIRL, I PICTURED A DIFFERENT LIFE

I canít believe that I am 27 years old. As a little girl, I always pictured myself married with children by this age. However, prison has been my life for the past nine and a half years.

Sometimes I look into the mirror and the reality of what my life has become strikes me! I ask myself, what have I done? I feel so powerless and at times fearful, yet Iím determined to fight this battle to a victory.

At the age of seventeen, I was sentenced to serve eighteen years in prison, more than my living years on this earth at the time. I was convicted of Aggravated Manslaughter in connection with a botched robbery. Not having a sense of direction and following others led me to where I am today. I should have been the leader of my life instead of placing my life in the hands of those who werenít to be trusted. Even though I experimented with drugs, that was not the core of my problems. Mine was a disturbance of loneliness and a broken heart.

A year before I committed my crime, my boyfriend was shot and killed in Puerto Rico. After he died, nothing made sense to me anymore. I was traumatized and extremely depressed.

When I look back at that phase in my life, everything seems so dark, so gray, so cloudy, and ultimately as damp as the grave - dark because of my pain and my suffering. Where was I headed? My life was shattered when his was lost and I lost myself trying to find him again. Things were gray and cloudy from all the Marijuana I was smoking just trying to laugh away my emptiness. Damp from all the tears I had shed and even those that were withheld. Those same tears fall from my eyes every time I think about my life and all the pain I have caused others.

So here I am. Look where I ended up! I am in prison, but my life is no longer gray and cloudy. I am no longer self-destructive. I have learned to let go of the pain and be the leader of my life once and for all. My life is no longer ruled by my problems.

Before my incarceration, my family tried everything in their power to help me. But like a typical teenage girl, I thought I had the answer to everything. Boy was I wrong!

My greatest desire is that if anyone reads this and can identify with me, please take into consideration the consequences that follow actions and choices like mine. It is not easy sitting in a prison cell watching the years go by. It is not easy living with regrets. Every day I ask God for forgiveness. And it is definitely not easy having a visit with your family and then watching them walk out that door. It is not easy existing in a brick cell and not living like I should. I constructed my own demise and I will reconstruct my own future.

Ivelisa Figuroa
New Jersey

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PROGRESS

I have a goal in life,
To succeed and do many good deeds,
But as I try to accomplish that goal,
It seems that all I find are open wounds from the past,
Left to do nothing but bleed.

I try and I try,
But each time I fall down.
Every time I go to climb that ladder to success,
I only find myself on the ground.

As I practice to walk,
I continue to stumble.
At times when I should speak,
I find myself to do nothing other than mumble.

Sometimes I sit,
Thinking of a master plan
To keep from having pain inside me
And giving it to another man.

I donít understand
Why this ride feels so lonely.
Iíve taken the knife out of my heart,
But I still feel the pain strongly.

Iím not going anywhere.
Why am I standing still?
Am I dreaming of being a tall moveless mountain,
Or am I truly a human being for real?

When at times Iím feeling weak
And my problems push me to the ground,
Thatís when I feel nothinís working out for me
And no oneís going to stay around.

I grab that strength
Deep within myself
And smile as I continue to walk
Away from the gates of hell.

D.J.
California

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I ONCE SAW IT ON HIS FACE

As the last light of the day
Welcomes the enveloping darkness,
Slowly a tear slides down his faceÖ
His failures are many,
Too many to keep an accurate account.
He dares not to give in
To his longtime feelings
Of defeat and shame.
Life must give him a second chance.

This canít be it!
ďNo way Jose.Ē
Daydreams of open pastures
Reveal his deepest hopes.
All he wants,
Is to be able
To breathe and die
Outside the fence -
That damn fence
Which has kept him captive
For twenty-five years of his life.

He thinks long and hard
About his upcoming day
With the parole board.
What can he tell them this time,
To make them understand
That heís a changed man,
That heís no longer
The stupid kid
Who killed another
For the thrill of it,
That heís sorry, so sorry
For all his mistakes.
Canít they see?!
Theyíve buried a man
Very much alive.

He closes his eyes in desperation.
An image suddenly appears
In his head
An image of the one
Whose life he stripped away,
But it is now
At the center of his own.
His tear has now dried.
Tomorrow will be here soon,
Only to remind him,
He too
Is no longer alive.

(For My Lifer Friend Marty)

G. Alvarado
California

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DETERMINATION

All I want is to wake up by the warm beams of sun coming in my room, not in a cold and heartless den, caged like an animal, lying on a mattress, lonely as marble with the chill of sheets at thin as paper to provide my only warmth.

All I want is to be awakened by the love and laughter of my four sisters jumping on my bed, not in a place of fear and anxiety, or in a place of separation.

All I want is the love and support of my family, whom I had rejected before I realized their importance. I want to be welcomed into the house for a warm meal with meaningful conversation and to feel the warmth of their acceptance.

All I want is to have a soul-mate at my side, who I can trust more than I trust myself, who will encourage me through hardship and celebrations, who will respect herself and not be afraid to ask for it, who will be true to her morals, even to the extent of passing beyond societyís standards.

All I want is to make my own choices, to be able to accept my past and allow myself to forgive, not to have others barking stern orders towards me and judging me by my coldhearted mistakes of my heartbreaking life.

And all I want is the feeling of living day by day.

D.J.
California

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LOVE DENIED

I need that affectionate love and touch to heal these wounds,
A life full of broken promises and hateful thoughts consumed.
ďYouíre nothing but a mistake and should never have beenĒ!
The words of a Mother whose heart I can never mend.

Though I tried my best to make her proud,
All the while she never smiled,
No more hugs and kisses with love behind them,
Only hateful eyes with a grudge to blind them.

I say, ďI love you mom.Ē and there is no reply.
At night before I sleep, I always cry,
With no one to hold me tight and wipe my tears away,
To console me with comforting words for the day.

Harsh words is what I hear,
Trying so hard to evade this rising fear.
Iím a fiend to a love lost with time
Forever out of reach of this heart of mine.

The pain and agony of being alone,
Trapped in the hostility of my home,
Makes me want to run away,
Yet instead, here I stay.

Hoping for a change today
To make these feelings go away.
If there was love I hadnít noticed,
Now Iím back once again, feeling hopeless.

D.J.
California

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THE DAY I DIED WAS JUST ANOTHER DAY

The day I died was just another day kicking back with the homies. December 11, I was awakened by my mother telling me to get ready for school. Doing so, my dog Casper came to pick me up. Leaving the pad, my motherís last words were, ďGo straight to schoolĒ! I say laughing, ďYeah, okayĒ!!!

The morning is drizzling; the streets are wet - clouds in the sky warning of some heavy rains. We take a detour, headed to the homieís pad for the ditching party. Stopping at the liquor store for some booze, we have a wino purchase it. With smiles on our faces, we are on our way. A silver car stops suddenly and someone asks, ďWhere you from, eseĒ? followed by a loud boom. Something hits me hard in the chest. My body flies in the air, landing on a fence. Tires are screeching; the last words I hear are the troublemakersí gang.

Can it be? Did it really happen? No, itís not possible! Itís a dream; thatís what it is! But I am feeling so much pain. Why canít I move? The rain is now starting to pour down. Suddenly, the sky releases all that it was storing. I try to yell to no avail. Whereís my homeboy Casper? A drunk suddenly passes by, cursing and laughing as he looks at where I am lying. Seeing the beer thrown, he says, ďI got you. You are in trouble now.Ē I have my club jacket halfway on with our gang name written on it. He begins to say that he knows me and he used to be part of my crew years back so heís going to cut me a break and let me be. I try to yell but the rain drowns out my moans! The water and mud cover the blood! My motherís words come back, ďGo straight to schoolĒ! ďGodĒ I yell, ďI want to go to school.Ē I cry in my mind to God to no avail!

What? Iím feeling dizzy as if Iím falling. Everything is turned dark! I awake. It was a dream! My mother is standing over me telling me to wake up, that I need to get ready for school!! But why are you crying? Why do you look so sad? ďWhatís wrong; what happened,Ē I begin to yell, but to no avail. Someone approaches, takes my mom in their arms as she is led away. What is going on?!!!! ďOh God, help me,Ē I cry! Casper looks down at me; everything is OK I say to myself. ďYou got caught slippin, ese. You got caught slippinĒ! What the hell! He closes the top of the casket slowly. It begins to darken. I try to yell, ďDonít please. Iím awake. Donít do it. Canít you hear meĒ?!! The casket is closedÖ Eternal darkness is now surrounds me. Its dark something is covering me. No stop!! Worms everywhere. I tell them to stop, and to no availÖ

Jerry Rodriguez
California

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A LETTER FROM A 17 YEAR OLD ON THE WAY TO PRISON

Whatís up to all those out there in the real and free!

Iím 17 years old and Iím an ex-gang member on my way to state prison. The reason Iím writtiní this letter is to answer a couple of questions thatís been asked from the youngstas on the streetz. Check it, some of yaíall ask how gangs can mess up your life and what I will say about that is, look at me. I mean, come on - all gangs are basically the same, about worshiping drugs, hate and hurt. Now you might say that you donít deal with none of those things, but if youíre really gang-bangin you are. And if youíre not really gang bangin, then you have more of a chance of getting out than a person who is doin da most and bangin to the fullest. When I was out, I was one of those who was doin da most and now look where Iím at. Ainít none of my homies in dis cell with me. Itís just me and the Lord.

Let me say this to all those smart pretty young ladies and soldiers. Bangin ainít all it seems or looks. Bangin is for real; it ainít no game. Folks is gettin laid down to dis so-called bangin life. Dudes is getting locked up for life behind bars for this gang-bangin. Now if you donít think losin your life canít change your life, then thereís really somethin wrong, and bangin canít even help you know.

The way I put it, bangin is a blindfold over your eyes - cause you know how you canít see when you got one over your eyes? Well, thatís how bangin is. You canít see nothing outside the gang, hood, or block. Hope you get that. So, to all those homegirls and homies thinking the life of bangin is the life for them, let me tell you that the life of bangin is for no one. And if you think so, think again. I mean, donít get me wrong or nothing cause Iím not a preacher or anything like that, but I am a young brotha willin to help someone thatís bout to make the biggest mistake of your life.

D.J.
California

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LIFE

Some say
Life is a mystery
We will never resolve.

I say
Life is a simple story
Told by our actions
Each dayÖ

Give a kind smile to a stranger
And youíll see why.

Open your eyes
Admire with the curious eye of a child
All the beauty and elegance
Surrounding us,
Every detail -
That makes this big puzzle come together.

Every creature,
Every color,
Every mountain in the horizon
Speaks of the creatorís loveÖ

Listen to the hummingbird song,
How quietly it serenades
The listenerís ear,
How he graces
The beholderís eyeÖ

Life is joy;
Pain, and beauty - combined.

G. Alvarado
California

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MY FAVORITE COLOR

Different is wrong,
Ours is the right color.
Ours is the right shape.

Thousands
Even millions are dead
Because of, and defending
Such an endeavorÖ

And not one has stopped
To see the red spill
Staining our lives,
Left as a silent reminder
That underneath all our erroneous conclusionsÖ
There is only one color:
Ours and theirs.

ďWhat a beautiful red.Ē

G. Alvarado
California

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I WAKE UP

I wake up, open my eyes and look around
My ears pop open and listen for the slightest sound
I hear screams, cries, moans and groans
Someone desperately yelling, I want to go home!
I reach out, hoping there is someone else for me to hold
But then I have to realize Iím all alone
I try to drift back to sleep, wishing I could escape my reality
But I must get up and face these walls that will forever look at me sadly
I sit up on my bed and wipe the cold out my eyes
And for a second I give thought to this room that will never be kind
Then something pounding inside me is what I feel
I catch my breath and I get a cold chill
I tell myself over and over this canít be real
So I stand up and in agony nod my head
Another day I must begin, another day feeling like the walking dead
This is deeper than any learning experience some have ever known
This place is like no other, a concrete jungle, a world of its own.

Junior
New Jersey

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WELCOME TO MY WORLD

Welcome to my world,
A resort of sorts you see,
Where the doors will lock behind you
And fantasies are free.

Where calendars mean nothing
As months turn into years
Where memories can haunt you
And rivers flow from tears.

Where concrete walls surround you,
Cell bars of cold hard steel.
Your conscience starts to taunt you
And nightmares seem so real.

A domain filled with sorrow
Where men break down and cry,
A place with no tomorrow
Where people live and die.

Welcome to state prison
A warehouse of human race,
Where even when someoneís set free
Another takes their place.

So welcome to my world
If itís where you want to be
A barren cell, a home in hell,
I pray they set you free.

Rick
California

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WHAT WILL BECOME OF ME?

One day the doors will open and once again Iíll be free,
A fate that makes me wonder what will become of me.

Will there be jobs for men such as I
Or will I have to go back to my past-life to get by?

What about my family and friends that I havenít seen in years;
Will they still accept my friendship without doubts or fears?

What about my kids? Am I still in their hearts,
As the days and years that passed in which we were apart?

Thoughts like this make me wonder: what will become of me?
But I understand now from the past-life I lived until now;
No one will ever know what will become of me, but me!

"Sincere"
New Jersey

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ALL SALES ARE FINAL

My attitude
about my situation,
it strikes some as weird.
After all, Iím serving life
and have done so now
going on fifteen years.
ďDonít you ever want to get
out?Ē they ask. ďWhat about
all you are missing: all lifeís
niceties - surely there is
something in the free world
you miss - a decent meal, a
relationship, the choices not
found in prisonĒ? And I can
only smile my self-conscious grin,
and wonder if my eyes look opaque.
Sometimes I try to explain my
thinking; that this is my life,
the one I bought and am paying for.
But it doesnít register, so instead
I say, ďall sales are final,Ē and
leave it at that.

Patrick Nolan
California

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WHY COMPLAIN IF ALL SALES ARE FINAL

Opening my eyes to receive the new day, it doesnít take more than half a second to be greeted by the cold realization that I am still a prisoner. Whatís going to be today: whoís going to fall; what new drama will be unfolded? I utter a little mantra, ďHoly creation, give me the strength I need to keep going.Ē Itís my own personal prayer to all of creation and all of its wonders. Breakfast will be here soonÖ I can already feel a nagging complaint forming in my mind. NO! Today Iím going to break the norm - I am not going to complain about the food, or how bad life inside this place is.

I know others, in other parts of this planet have it worse than I do, and unlike me, all they did to deserve their fate was to have been born. So why should I give into this absurdity of self-pity, when I think about these othersí sufferings: of their hunger, of their illness that could be cured if only their fellow humans took a second look at them, of the cries of countless children being sold to prostitution, sometimes even by their own parents?

No, today I refuse to complain. Faced with these raw realities, and picturing the millions of faces that form them, I feel that Iíve been complaining for no good reason other than that I can. I get three meals a day - two hot ones, and one in a paper sack. I have a roof over my head, clean clothes, a TV and a radio. So why start the day with a brand new complaint, especially if all I did to deserve this was to commit a senseless crime? What gives me the right to rage for the way Iím being treated, or for the endless lockdowns (that in my mind I believe I donít deserve) I have to endure?

Going deeper within myself, I start to see the endless parade of excuses which I unconsciously have accumulated throughout these years of feeling I was the victim, and not those I have directly or indirectly hurt. Some people have told me that maturity comes with old age. I however now believe that maturity is found in taking responsibility of our own rights and wrongs.

This old friend of mine once said, ďAll sales are final.Ē At the time I didnít understand, nor did I care to do so, what he was trying to convey. Now itís clear to me what his bold statement means. You see, he once killed a man and it got him a long, long stay - so, since he took anotherís life, he felt that he owed a life ďhis.Ē Therefore he was here (in prison) to stay - without any complaints.

Now, no convict in his right mind or convictions will utter those same words, for within these walls responsibility is not a big plus. Itís all about getting away, getting over on your fellow men without, of course, feelings or silly bothersome ideas of guilt. In spite of all this, I believe my friend was right, ďall sales are indeed final,Ē for I too have taken a life, but maybe if I choose right Iíll be given a second chance to lead a more responsible life. Responsibility is a pretty heavy load, one that I am willing to bear. So today, I am not going to complain.

G. Alvarado
California

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SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT GANGS FROM A FRIEND

A GANGSTER DOING LIFE

For those of you thinking of joining a gang, hereís your payoff - either prison or death is what comes of it. If you think it wonít happen to you, ďso did the 700,000 gang members who are in prison today. The jokeís on you!

Another thing, those same rival gang members that you gangbang against, when you come to prison, itís over. Gangbanging is not allowed here by the inmates! Bring it in here, thatís the end for you! Game over! Youíre dead. At this moment as I write this down, Iím celled up with one of my worst enemies. And guess what - me and him have more in common than me and one of my dogs on the street. Why couldnít we know this out there? Because our ignorance and stupidity blinded us.

Gangbanginí is out of style - played out! Thereís better things to do out there - beaches, clubs, family! You really want to give that up? It ainít worth it!

For those that are in, get out! Just find different things to do and better friends. If you cease to come around, theyíll forget about you. I tell you this because I was the president of a gang which consisted of 350 members. I rose the ranks faster than anyone else. I joined at 9 and at 16 I was president. At 17, I went to prison, got out at 19 and called it quits.

Ten years later I am still alive. I may be locked up again but this time it was self-defense and I have faith in God that he put me here for a reason. Three years into my time, I found out what it is. God put me here to help you, to lead you away from the wrong path, to help you understand that gangs are a waste of time, to be able to answer your questions, to let you know that somebody cares for you. And you can trust in me because I already lived what youíre barely starting. I know what itís like to have questions but no one to ask to get answers. But itís changed because now you have someone you can ask who can give you the answers you seek.

If I have to stay in here for the rest of my life just so I can help youth in need, so be it. I should have been dead a long time ago. I canít undo the past, but I can help shape the future and make it possible for you to have a chance at a better life and, as God is my witness, I vow to do this till death takes me away. Even then my good deeds will go on. There will be someone like all of you out there to help others, except you wonít have to come to prison to help. Youíll have a head start at life.

So all you out there set your minds to success because weíre here to help you succeed. To all of you, I send my love and respect. When youíre feeling down, remember what I said, ďDonít let no one or nothing get you down.Ē Stay strong everyone!! Freedom is priceless! God is freedomĒ!

Jerry
California

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GOTTA BE CAREFUL WHERE YA PLANT YA FEET

All tears ainít weeps, all closed eyes ainít sleep,
so, ya gotta be careful where ya plant ya feet.

Ya homeboy was gleamin, riding low and leaning,
getting crazy money and his hustle was screaming.

Jump in gee, Iím gonna teach you how to be.
A real smooth operator, just like me.

Hit you off with a package, showed ya how to move.
Ya started clocking crack, not taking ya butt to school.

Ya tutor, mentor, ya first homeboy,
the one ya thought was all that and more.

Then the bust came down, he wasnít around,
ya screamed for his help, he couldnít be found.

Now ya feel like hell, cause he wonít go ya bail,
wordís on the street that heís got ya girl.

Now, ya days are dull, at night ya canít sleep,
from day one, ya gotta be careful where ya plant ya feet.

Marvin Mays
New Jersey

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ONLY SIXTEEN

I was only 16 and starting trouble no matter where I was at,
People telling me to stay in schoolÖ Man f--k that!

I was doing everything from selling to stealing just to get paid,
Thinking I was smart with an education of the third grade.

I was in my own world which no one could understand,
As I hustled for one night and pulled a grand.

I used to walk the streets as I bopped from side to side,
Untill I started stealing cars for a joy ride.

Always chilling on the corner, fumando in front of a bodega,
Watching my peoples metiťndose manteca.

My vision was so blurry and my mind was so confused,
I was satisfied with all the weed I used.

In a week I went from bad to worst,
As I started drinking alcohol to quench my thirst.

Then I took my juvenile delinquency life to its last.
Now Iím in a prison cell wishing I could change the past.

Edwin Torres
New Jersey

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THE GULAG EFFECT

Blackmarks from unwiped jackboots
have scarred the hallway floors
splintered doorframes
unable to prevent wandering eyes from seeing whatís inside,
overturned tables, spiderwebbed mirrors, broken windows,
allowing the wind to whip around uninhibited
blowing around papers and light garments
that used to rest peacefully inside drawers
that have been yanked from their oakframes
and thrown carelessly onto the old wooden planked floors
A family portrait has fallen from the wall
disgraced by the slash of a blade
the picture once spoke of peace and undying love
but now represents a shattered people
left with no soul,
but not just one family, this family,
no, it speaks of generations of families
cold, alone, and wandering.

Anthony Leahey
New Jersey

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WINDOW

When I look out the window, I see a world that I was once in.
A sadness appears as I feel a tear running down my chin.

I see trees being blown by the wind as they rock back and forth
And look back on my life as I took the wrong course.

I see birds as they fly free in the sky,
While Iím in the cell wondering why.

I see the clouds develop while the rain starts pouring down.
Iím wishing that my physical being was free instead of being bound.

I see the weather change as it goes from hot to cold,
Confined in a place as I grow old.

I see buildings, houses and even cars as they drive by.
Itís hard to stop stressing, but at least I try.

I see the street lights come on when night appears,
Trying to focus on my freedom but it isnít clear.

I see myself wondering, ďIs it over for meĒ?
While Iím looking out the window from inside the penitentiary.

Edwin Torres
New Jersey

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THE HOUSE OF STONE

Built on misery and stories of pain,
dreams turned into nightmares,
along with hopes of fame.
Living in glory, lost and gained.
Memories of yesterday, fall like rain.

Though the faces constantly change,
the stories somehow remain the same.
Hopes and dreams passed without thought
from the lips of the insane.

Survival skills, cheap thrills,
street hustle of muscle,
extortions and schemes,
jailhouse gangsters who stay lean and mean.

Cold, dark hungry and alone,
you got to be strong
to survive in the house of stone.

Marvin Mays
New Jersey

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LETíS BE REAL TO OUR WOMEN

Women are the most beautiful creatures on this earth.
They carry our children for nine months till birth.

They make us complete.
Their love is as solid as concrete.

All that they do for us,
They deserve more than we could give and plus.

If you feel the same way I do or more,
Then how can you hit the one you love by throwing her to the floor?

You canít use the excuse saying, ďBaby I wasnít thinking straight.Ē or ďI was drunk.Ē
Because whoever hits a woman is a straight up punk!

It doesnít make you a man by putting your hands on a woman,

How would you feel if a so-called man hits your mother, sister, daughter or niece?
Ssshhh mess around, the murder rate might increase.

Take time to think.
Donít hit your woman because she left the dishes in the sink.

Itís like Tupac said, ďItís time to heal our women, to be real to our women,"
So stop the domestic violence,
Because we donít need to hear the wordsÖ
ĒLetís have a moment of silence.Ē

Edwin Torres
New Jersey

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LETíS KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE

Why is it every time I turn on the news,
Itís always singing the blues?

Kids are being killed, kidnapped, molested, raped or abandonedÖ
Whatís wrong with this picture? Kids are our future?

Itís sad that there are children in this world that are dying from diseases or starvation.
But that doesnít make it right to abuse children due to frustration.

Something has to be done! Our children canít even go to the park to have fun,
Because someone wants to shoot off a gun.

I always ask myself, ďWhy are kids falling from the skyĒ?
I never get a reply.

They say these things are meant to be,
But those things are hard for me to believe.

How can anyone hurt a kid anyway?
Can you answer that question? Iím still puzzled to this day.

What gets me is that this type of behavior towards children has been going on for many years,
And every time I hear a child go down, all I can do is shed tears.

Letís make this world a better place
To keep our children safe,
And see a beautiful smile on their face.
Not to see them lying inside a case.

Edwin Torres
New Jersey

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WHEN I HIT THE STREET

I say that I want freedom,
But what will I do if Iím freed?
Iíve been locked up for over a decade;
I donít have an education or a trade.
The only thing I know is sell drugs,
Hang on the street corners and rap with thugs.
Iíve only had a job about twice in my life,
That I actually had a tax number credited.
One of them was a bus boy,
The other a paper boy.
Iím a grown man, I can barely feed myself,
Much less my kids.
Maybe Iíll go back to school and get my G.E.D.
Even still, with my record,
Whoís gonna hire me?
I find myself back at square one,
With the same problem.
If I were freed, what would I do?
Go back to doing the same things I used to?
Living a life thatís going nowhere?
If thatís the case,
I could just stay inside of here,
Away from responsibility and
Paying monthly bills.
All I have to do is take orders,
And relinquish my free will.
No thanks!
Iíve had enough of that man,
So I guess I better come up with a plan,
Well thought out in full detail, complete.
For my preparation starts now,
Not when I hit the street.

Rue
NEW JERSEY

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WHAT IF EVERYONE GAVE UP CARING

Beyond the razor wire and the insane politics of my world, there are people who care.

I sit here year after year and watch the lunatics play with our lives with no regard to the outcome of their self-serving actions.

They donít care. They donít care for me; they donít care for tomorrow or anything else.

Some day they will have to care. The day will soon be here when there is nothing left to threaten us with. What then?

They took the family visits and I lost my wife and son. Still I cared.

They took the weights so I couldnít say in shape or work out my frustration. Still I cared.

They took the camera off the yard. Now my family donít know what I look like. Still I cared.

They took my pay number so now I canít even afford to support myself. Still I cared.

Some day soon, there will be nothing left to take. Then what is going to keep us from becoming hate-filled monsters?

This scares me. How long will I still care?

And what will happen when none of us care anymore?

I hope those running this prison system wake up and start caring before then.

Rick M.
CALIFORNIA

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SURVIVOR

Iím doing time, losing my mind
And still I continue to fight.
The choice was mine; I fear no man,
But my feelings I hide with fright.

Not able to share, cause no one is there,
Iím always feeling alone.
I never complain cause nobody cares
And still I survive on my own.

I.P.
CALIFORNIA

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I DREAM

I dream of a happy place
Where nobody is two-faced,
A place where we all get along,
Somewhere nice and very calm
Where money is not an issue,
No crying eyes needing a tissue.

I dream of a special girl
That sheís loyal to me and Iím loyal to her,
A girl that Iím able to trust in
One that is beautiful from within,
That our love for each other is unconditional
And together we go and conquer the world.

I have many dreams,
So many that most are unseen.
Dreams donít lie and Iím a fiend for the truth.
My biggest dream is that all my dreams come true.

I.P.
CALIFORNIA

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WILL YOU SHARE MY PAIN?

I sit back and see deeper than the seven seas.
It hurts to breathe because internally I bleed.
My heart leaks vivid emotions,
Unstable though I try.

I wake to see pure misery
And when I cry nobodyís listening,
And so I die and come back stronger,
No longer with tear-filled eyes.

Oh how I long for happiness;
Instead I live in sadness.
Trapped in solitude,
My mind is full of madness.

Taking drastic measures to survive,
I scream; I cry; I weep; I die.
But now I keep it inside,
Doing all to stay alive.

The animosity fuels my life,
Gives me strength but tortures my mind.
Suicide is contemplated, yet that I refuse.
I refuse to lose, simply because I choose.

And if I donít succeed,
I will most definitely die trying.

But deep inside I feel lonely.
Baby console me, come and hold me.
I need you; come help me.
Just love me for me.

I.P.
CALIFORNIA

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ONLY WHAT THE EYES CAN SEE

If you think you know me -
You donít.
If you believe I am only what your eyes see,
You are not looking deeper into mine.

My color and shape
Are only reflections of blood and some borrowed DNA
Of those who brought me here.

In here also lives something
More obscure and complex
Than just this accused and guilty body of flesh.

It is an eternal fireÖ
Passed down by the very beginnings of all generations.
It canít be seen or heard by eyes
Formed out of looking only at the shelter of this light.

I am not going to explain why
I have this moment with you.
I will only say,
ďI am your brother.Ē

I am not what you see while speaking in my own voice.
I am what you feel in that single moment
When you finally open your eyes.

So please hear me well
And we will speak again.

G.Alvarado
CALIFORNIA

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DEATH OF AN INNOCENT

I went to a party, Mom, I remembered what you said.
You told me not to drink, Mom, so I drank soda instead.
I felt really proud inside, Mom, the way you said I would.
I didn't drink and drive, Mom, even though the others said I should.
I know I did the right thing Mom. I know you are always right.
Now the party is finally ending, Mom, and everyone is driving out of sight.

As I got in my car, Mom, I knew I'd get home in one piece
Because of the way you raised me, so responsible and sweet.
I started to drive away, Mom, but as I pulled out into the road,
The other car didn't see me, Mom, and hit me like a load.
As I lay there on the pavement, Mom, I hear the policeman say,
The other guy is drunk, Mom, and now I'm the one who will pay.

I'm lying here dying, Mom. I wish you would get here soon.
How could this happen, Mom? My life just burst like a balloon.
There is blood all around me, Mom, and most of it is mine.
I hear the medic say, Mom, I'll die in a short time.
I just wanted to tell you, Mom. I swear I didn't drink.
It was the others, Mom. The others didn't think.

He probably was at the same party as I.
The only difference is, he drank and I will die.
Why do people, drink, Mom? It can ruin your whole life.
I feel sharp pains now, pains just like a knife.
The guy who hit me is walking, Mom, and I don't think it's fair.
I'm lying here dying, and all he can do is stare.

Tell my brother not to cry, Mom. Tell Daddy to be brave.
And when I go to heaven, Mom, put "Daddy's Girl" on my grave.
Someone should have told him, Mom, not to drink and drive.
If only they had told him, Mom, I would still be alive.

My breath is getting shorter, Mom, I'm becoming very scared.
Please don't cry for me, Mom. When I needed you, you were always there.
I have one last question, Mom, before I say goodbye.
I didn't drink and drive, so why am I the one to die?

...Author Unknown ...Submitted by Anh '97

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Do You Really Wanna Bang?

I grew up on the poor side of town
All my life because my pride is brown.
My life is going in circles round and round.
Homeboys getting shot because they thought they were tuff,
Shot all because of the signs that they were throwing,
Friscos, cut and creased with the brown rag showing.

It was all fun and games but now it's a shame,
As my brother (RIP) lies dead in his casket.
It's so hard to believe that he is actually gone.
It's been a year and I'm still sitting here
Wondering what went wrong
But the day is past and it's time to get on.

Older homeboys are still getting loaded with their syringe
While the younger ones are out looking for revenge.
The war goes on and it never stops,
Every Barrio always trying to be on top.
It's the only thing we know and the only thing we do
Besides selling drugs and always on the go.
It's so sad but it's so true.

Incarcerated wearing county blues now,
You are in for 187 and all it took was just one shot
And 25 to life is what you got.
No more luck, no four-leaf clover.
As far as your concerned your whole life is over.
But if that's what it takes to be in a gang
Then you should think real hard, do you really wanna bang?

Lauriena

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To Whom It May Concern

I find myself in a place where a true friend is that person who doesn't confide in you. Here a true friend is that person who doesn't share his problems and watches your back without having to be asked.

Since what I'm about to write contains some of my feelings, I'm obligated to apologize to the reader for expressing my problems. It's hard for me to express exactly how I feel and why but I'll try to do my best.

My heart is saddened every day and hope dies little by little, not because of my confinement but because of something more important. I have to point out before I go on that I'm determined to keep hope alive. It will never be compeletely dead because hope is all a prisoner has. I hope for all the things any other prisoner hopes for, but my hope also extends to all the young people outside these walls. To those that are lured in by the gangs and their promise of popularity, acceptance, partying, sex, and drugs. To these young people, there is no tomorrow, only today... the now. My hope is that they will realize that tomorrow will eventually come and with it come death, prison, diseases, and who knows what else.

My tomorrow suddenly became my today and brought me a long prison term. Life in prison is nothing compared to living with the knowledge of being responsible for bringing suffering upon my family and upon a family that I don't even know and never did nothing to me. That was the inheritance the gang had in store for me and my family ... and the family I just mentioned. A gang member involves his/her family with the gang. If you are in a gang or plan on joining one, you can be assured that you will end up the same way I did or worse.

I am constantly frustrated because there is little I can do to help a kid! I feel helpless! I get angry at the world for not stopping or at least slowing down to notice that a young person gets killed or a young girl is kidnapped and taken advantage of. I hate the world for not stopping to honor and respect or at least to notice that a young person was in the world and is no more. I hate it because life goes on as usual in spite of all the tragedies. But I come to my senses and remind myself that that's just the way life is.

My frustration is increased when I think about all the young people. There is a lot of pressure upon a teen's mind to try and fit in and to be like everyone else. You are always worried about what other people are going to think if you don't do this or that. If you are a young person, you know what I'm talking about. It's something that we can't control. Sometimes we don't realize that we have those thoughts in our heads and other times they are so present that it's because of them we do something we don't really want to do.

I want to apologize again dear reader for burdening you with my problems.

Respectfully - Alex(age 21 doing 26 to life)

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A "GANGSTER" MOTHER'S PRAYER

(In loving memory of my son Omar Jesus Trujillo)

Father God, hear my prayer tonight.
     Guard my child, upon him shine your light.

Guide his steps as through the streets he roams.
     Send angels to protect him, safeguard his soul.

Bring him back safely, let no harm come to him.
     Allow grace to flow where ever he has been.

And as the night grows dark
     Bring him home, safely back.

I pray that he will see the error of his ways,
     That he will seek you Father all of his days.

I love my son dear Lord.
     I place him in your hands
     As he goes out our door

I pray for the evil that exits out in the night
     On my knees before you, lifting my prayers
     I will continue the fight.

It's a war Lord for my son's soul.
     But I know he loves and knows you.
     Of that the enemy has no control.

These tears that from my eyes flow
     I pray you will take them and water the seed
     That in the ground of his heart I've sown.

This child was a gift from you one day not long ago.
     I took him and loved him as much as my heart knows.

So Lord, take care of him for me tonight.
     Bring him home safe so that I can
     Once again kiss him goodnight.

But Lord most of all, may your Will be done.
     I know you love him, he is also your son.

Amen

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THE ONE WHO REALLY CARES

My feelings, my thoughts, my life...
Does anyone understand the pain that I'm going through?
Can't anyone see through the fake laughs and smiles?
Do my so-called homies notice the tracks of my tears?
How much longer do I have to walk around with this mask?
How much longer will I have to live this lonely life?
When will I leave this cell
That seems to be getting smaller and smaller each day that goes by?
When will I receive a letter from my family
Telling me that they miss me or asking how I'm doing?
All I have now is my lady and two babies,
But will she give up on me as well?
Will my children grow up and live without their daddy around just as I did?
Why do I feel like my life is coming to an end?
Will I be the next one to get shanked and taken out of here in a stretcher
Or will God save my life one more time?
I disappointed Him several times and let Him down,
So why should He back me up now?
Hmm... oh I know why!
Because He loves me no matter what!
He feels my pain; He knows my real laugh and smiles.
He gives me comfort when I'm feeling sad and lonely at night.
And because He is a true friend.
So all you who have asked yourself these same questions I ask myself,
Just keep in mind that the Lord is always with you (Matt:28 20).
Also remember the "Footsteps" prayer.
God is just waiting for us to call upon Him.
The choice is yours.
I'm struggling right now but I have faith that things will be better.
If you are feeling lonely or you don't have your parents with you,
Read Psalm 68: 5-6 and just keep your head up.

With respect,
Salvador P.

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Family Influence

It is hard to try to remember at what point or period of time things started going wrong in my life. But my family life, or to say my parentsí lifestyle, had a big influence on the decisions I made in life. Not that Iím blaming my parents or anybody else for my decisions and actions in life, but the influence was there nonetheless.

One of my first childhood experiences came when I was about six years old. I was an only child then, but I remember my parents and I had eaten out. At that time we had this dog of female Doberman Pincher we had named Daisy. Upon returning home from the restaurant we discovered the dog had chewed up a number of things around the house. I canít remember what exactly happened next, but I clearly recall my father ran into the kitchen and came out with a knife, grabbing the dog by her head and cutting its throat. He did this right in front of me. That image has lived with me all my life. Later I learned that the dog had chewed my fatherís pot (marijuana) stash.

I started shoplifting at the age of seven, and things just continued to go downhill from there. We moved around a lot during those days; until my mother had my brother. Shortly after he was born we moved into a nice day house with four bedrooms, a dining room, and two bathrooms; we never had a basement or a big yard. Both my parents were working then.

Due to all the moving around, I was not doing good in school at all. I was eight years old going on nine and was still in the second grade. I remember my teacher telling my mother that she was going to pass me to the third grade, but that I would probably struggle and get left back. So my mother told my teacher to leave me in the second grade. When I was told about this, I cried all night. I hated my mother for doing that to me; well I really did not hate her, but I was really mad. Things just got worse after that; actually, I got worse after that. I hated school now. Altogether I was ďleft backĒ in school in the second, fourth, and sixth grades. I eventually dropped out when I was sixteen years old, hell I was only in the seventh grade at this age, so what was the point!

But before I got to that point in school, things were not good at home. I got caught shoplifting. My father was called, but nothing would really happen to me. I started stealing from my parents. I would steal a lot of money from them. Again I was never really punished for the things I was doing. By the time I was eleven or twelve years old, I knew my father was a drunk and a drug addict, and that my mother was a drug addict as well. At first they would try to get high on the sneak, but I knew what was going on. I knew my father was selling drugs. There were just too many people coming to the house.

My father would get drunk every day. It was during these drunken times he would start fights with me and my mother. I hated that, but I was too small to do anything about it. So many times I saw him hit my mother in the face. One day I was sent home from school; as I said, before I dropped out I wasnít doing too good. That same night, my father got really drunk and he beat me with a belt until I fell to the floor, I told myself I will never let him hit me again! I was fighting with people just about every day by now.

Eventually, we lost the house, and I know all the money I stole from my parents was part of us losing our house. By the time I was fifteen I started drinking and getting drunk. After quitting school at sixteen I just did not care anymore. My drinking got worse, I was out all night robbing people and just doing anything I wanted to. One night I had gone home to get something to eat. I remember it was about 7:00 PM. I walked into the house while one of my boys was outside; my father was sitting there in his usual drunken state. When he saw me, he started on me right away. He called me all kinds of names and saying things so I turned around and started to leave. He came at me and hit me in the face! I grabbed him and brought him down the steps in front of the house. We started fighting, but now I was a lot bigger than when he last beat me, so I was getting the best of him. My friend came and broke us up. My father ran into the house, and my mother ran out of the house yelling for me to run. My father came out of the house with a knife. My mother tried to take the knife from him, but couldnít. I kicked him in the chest knocking him and my mother to the ground. My father got up and came at me again. I started throwing punches, but he stabbed me in the stomach. By this time the police were there so I ended up in the hospital and my father in jail.

When I was released from the hospital, my mother took me and my little brother to live with her sister in New York City. I was there about two weeks when my mother and her sister decided to send me to Job Corps. The same day they droped me off at Job Corps they went and bailed my father out of jail. By this time we had lost the apartment, so when he got out of jail he had to get another place to live. Within a week he had moved into his new place. As soon as he moved in, he asked my mother to come back with him, and she did! When I heard this I just left Job Corps. I was gone a whole month before my family finally found out I was gone. It took them another three months to find out where I was. For those three months I was doing good, I had a job and was staying out of trouble.

When they finally found me, they asked me to come back and live with them, and I did. Nothing had changed. My parents were still the same in my little brother was there taking it all in. Now that I was back home things went downhill again. I start I started drinking and was getting into trouble again. I was arrested for aggravated assault and attempted murder. I was seventeen, and I thought they would release me to my parents. But not this time. One of my friends got arrested with me; and we were sent to the Youth House, the jail for juveniles.

After the holidays we went to court. The attempted murder charge was dropped, and we were given five yearsí probation. My friend was released but I was made to stay pending an investigation on some armed robbery during the month of September. So back to the Youth House I went. Eventually I was charged with the robbery and was waived up to the adult criminal court. I had turned eighteen while at the Youth House. I was given bail and released to the custody of my uncle. I was told by the judge to get the job and was put in a drug treatment program.

My uncle lived in a nice place. But while I was there things got worse. I was drinking every day and doing all kinds of drugs. I was always fighting with my cousinís friends, who are all doing drugs as well. This went on for about one year. The lawyer I had for the robbery charge, called me and told me that I was being offered ten years for the robbery and I would have to plead guilty to the charge. I told him I would call him the next day with my answer.

All that day I thought about my life and all I had done. I then realized that I was living the one thing I hated most, my parents life. I was a drunk, a drug addict and my life was worth nothing. I knew I would never be nothing. I called the lawyer and told him I would not plead guilty to the robbery. Then on August 9, 1991, three days after talking to my lawyer I was in jail for killing the guy who lived across the street from me. So now here I sit in prison with a life sentence never to see the streets again.

I blame no one from my situation. The decisions I made in life where mine to make. I could have stayed in school no matter how hard it was; I could have done a lot of things differently.

I write this because my little brother is in the streets and he is now doing a lot worse than I was. Just like my parentsí way of life no doubt influenced my behavior, I had a terrible impact on his life. Before my arrest, my brother was doing great in school. He was always on the honor roll; then after my arrest his grades started to drop. Eventually he was doing so bad that he too dropped out of school by the age of sixteen. It feels like the cycle is being repeated.

At times we do not see how our acts affect those people closest to us, and how our actions can influence the rest of their lives. My actions had a bad impact on my little brother. I hope that my story will serve as an eye opener to some, while a warning to others.

"Mike"
Reprinted with permission from the magazine "Inside Out"
New Jersey State Prison