JH Artwork

JH Artwork

Writing Exchange 2006-2018

This blog was created to display some of the powerful writing being done by incarcerated youth. Participants currently include juvenile hall facilities in Siskiyou, El Dorado, Placer, Fresno, and Butte County. Students are given journal topics and asked to write what needs to be written. Several entries are handpicked from each classroom site and posted to the blog anonymously. Students at each site then read the material together, discussing the writing and connecting with others.

Planned Exchanges

Planned Exchanges 2018: May 24; June 27; July 25; More To Come!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Entry # 769
Locked Away
White walls that mock my every move
keep me in quarantine away from the world,
The evil clock hanging on the wall
abducts what’s left of my childhood,
Steel doors that keep me incarcerated
are uninterested in my worry
of being forgotten by those that I love,
The tears that rush down my face laugh at my pain,
Razor wire in the yard taunts my dreams of being free.
When am I going home?

Entry # 770
Till It’s Done
It’s the dangerously sharp edge of the razor that puts the slits in my arms,
and the confused look on my mom’s face when she smokes what I call wrong.
I find little bags of crack rock all over my house,
except in my room, because
she knows if I find one in there it’s getting flushed.
My closet’s where the weed is kept,
my poison,
I need nothing else.
She says it’s my fault she needs to take her pills;
she can’t stand when the blood trickles.

Entry # 771
Thrown Away Whiskey
Addicted dark teenager
thrown away whiskey as holy water drugs for despair
he’s not a zombie, but moves like one
just another day of self-induced comatose chemical daze
apologizing for his sins
swearing he tries in a world, where
the wrong is right
uncovered eyes
placed on a planet
where demons are disguised,
by angels.

Entry # 772
Ice fir flicks
at my flesh,
a jungle trail of depression
that I’m dealing with.
I’m stuck;
anger faces happiness,
love faces hate.
I’m lost;
foreign fire crackers dancing
at my feet,
razor blades dancing
on my wrists.
I’m gone.

Entry # 773
Free Verse Failures
My respective tinted heart
shrouded in shameful anger,
Mom’s ambitious eyes
fill with soul crushing tears.

Smashed smug pottery,
Back alley copulating rendezvous,
Memories point demonic fingers
while sappy charcoal sentiments linger.

Laughter backhands a glimmer,
Park bench bedstead,
Remorseful secret glowie,
Taunting free verse failures.

Entry # 774
A taste of my ambitious venom
makes me chase that sensational high.
Fine jewelry and expensive cars were the reasons
to vanish from reality.
The glamorous lifestyle that cried to me in agony,
no time to think,
the doors to wealth are closing fast.
Snatch the opportunity while it’s in the air
or let it forever pass.

Entry # 775
I Take the Gamble and Roll the Dice…Ever Lost
Endlessly, eyes stinging,
hills filled with a worthless promenade forest of rotting trees.
I saunter through creepy winding pathways,
confusion’s stabbing at me.
The everlasting swoosh of the breeze talking to me through an intercom,
attempts to demolish my honor
and persuade me to veer off the lonely dirt trail
to the side path
without any cairn stones guiding my way
to the cheerful hue of my destination.

Entry # 776
FALLEN AND BROKEN (reverse poem)
***Read this poem from top down and then reverse it and read from bottom up…
Fallen and broken
I refuse to be
Seen as a human
I know I am
A worthless person
I will never be
Anything in life
I know I could be
Easily forgotten
I refuse to be
Someone great
I am seen as
A nobody
I will never be seen as
An educated black man
I am
A dumb person
I am not
Smart in any way
I am
A waste of space
People don’t think I am
 I am
A failure/A failure?

Entry # 777
My mind is full of confusion
Lost, no place to go
Sleeping in a bed with talking walls and voices in my vent,
Visions of lost attempts
What is this place?
Loud steel doors banging,
I think it’s a zoo
Parrots saying, “Errrt you’re a nock.”
That’s what they do.
Nobody to rely on.
Why do they do this?
They’re animals. We’re animals.
10 months later
Only 14 and still 3 months left
I think to myself, “Can I do it?”

Entry # 778
Detached Motives
Hoarding snided disparity
Instincts elaborately shy
Gleefully stomped gray-matter
Sanity serum is malicious
Hopeless pistols unite
Why expedite hope?

Detached motives flee
Simple radio oppresses
Turfed love locked
Too thoughtful glocks
Why expedite hope?

Entry # 779
Murderous Memories
Dangerous yet obsessive ambition
crouching amongst us within the shadows,
plotting and scheming against the world,
grieving loneliness embedded with a decade of murderous memories;
out-casted from the heavens to the seas.

Entry # 780
Absent Feelings
Every time I wake up I think about home, then I open my eyes and I realize that I’m locked up with my own real lies. Everything first goes to my mind. I think too much and my mind rewinds and I think about my sins. I’ll always be a sinner and God knows we’re not perfect. We’re only human beings. We are trying to be perfect but will only have flaws and the choices we make are the ones that might hurt, bruise, sting, break, OK-- even kill us. My soul is full of sin and pain and even regret but at the end of the day only I have the choice to change. I’ve been in here for almost two months and my family left me here on my own, but why? I got beat with a belt until my back would bleed and my father raped my sister and my whole family still looks at me like it’s my fault and sometimes I even believe it myself and I’m scared to look in the mirror. Every time I look in the mirror, I am reminded of why they think it’s my fault: I look like my father. I’m not sure what I feel because I don’t have feelings. My heart stopped beating ever since I was told everything was my fault.

Entry # 781
The Mood
Bright one moment then it turns dark in the blink of an eye,
I seem as if Im enjoying life but really its just sorrow in disguise,
So much loss in my world, so much  pain, so much to lose, but not enough to gain,
This mood I dare to mention has a hold on my life,
I wait for the days to pass, hoping that as time goes by I can forget the dark moments,
Forget all of the sorrow and forget the pain,
I pray to break the barriers of this delicate mood that holds me so tight that it squeezes the breath out of me,
I pray for relief, that God shall deliver me from all my Grief,
But until that day comes the world functions normally,
In the blink of an eye the Sun turns to the Moon and darkness takes over again.

Entry # 782
Courage runs through my veins,
Fueling me with the stamina I will need
in order to endure the next few months.
As I sit on my slab of concrete
I inquire feelings of loss and longing.
Reluctantly, I force
the sweet memories of the past
out of my head.
For now I am surrounded by flint smoke colored walls
in a cage with one deliberate
locked door.
Feelings of why, how, and what if, no longer matter.
I indulge myself
with acceptance for what is,
followed by a spoonful of hope
which pumps my heart
to keep me alive.

Entry # 783
The Resolution of Drugs
It’s like the sweet aroma of a baking pie,
drifting into your room from the kitchen.
It’s like your mother’s voice calling to you when you’re lost,
gently assuring you back to safety.
It’s like those favorite jeans that fit perfectly,
as you feel your legs sliding into familiar sanctuary.
It’s like that feeling of blissful relief laying your head on your pillow,
at the end of a particularly stressful day.
it consumes you.
Nothing ever smells appealing.
Voices terrify you and make you jump.
Clothes feel too tight or too baggy.
Pillows are suffocating.
You’re consumed.

Entry # 784
Impulse red sunset
insanely smeared, slapped
with blood on cold gray concrete
my shelter attacking boldly,
vicious gagged blue visions of my freedom.

Entry # 785
Rebellious oak tree
blowing vicious leaves
thrown out in the cold grey sunset
smeared raindrops fall on my provoked chest
another pedestrian mocked resentfully, offensively.
Bitter and hateful words
tenacious thoughts bruising through the liberty of my worked up visions.

Entry # 786
It has been a year since I’ve been outside of razor wired fences and doors that lock from the outside. It’s also been a year since my makin’ game was in its prime. It’s also been a year since I haven’t had to listen to bullshit. It has also been a year since I’ve smoked a cigarette. It has also been a year since the day I most regret.

Entry # 787
Explosion of bullets transforms to butterflies,
pure luck, ghostly figures vanishing from site,
impulsive behaviors inspired by fire.
A fierce prophecy absorbing my mind,
demolishing my childhood,
gliding into an ocean mist,
the sea floor’s my destination,
trying to disappear.
Determined to shine like a blazing phoenix,
but nobody believes….

Entry # 788
I want to get away,
preparing for tender trail prints,
seeing rocks, grass, and chain-linked fences.
Infuriated dark cavern
of stones and thorns, shuffled.
Considerate and devoted,
my offended sister.
Barefoot in the dirt, trying to be brave.
Curious about everything
Reinforced footsteps on the outside of the fences.
Trying to secure my optimistic challenge
 to be drawn toward the attracted pathways.
Looking past them, towards the meadow,
wishing I was on the right road to success.

Entry # 789
My Hard Time
            One of my hard  times would be when my grandpa died. When my grandpa passed away my life changed. My mom was doing drugs, so my little brother and I were taken away from my mom. I stopped going to school and I ran away from foster homes. I used anger to cover my hurt.
            I was just an angry teenager. I disrespected my mom and my loved ones. I kept all my hurt built up inside me. At one point I thought my mother didn’t care about me anymore. I was always “Mommy’s girl”, so that hurt me a lot. That was seven years ago when all this happened.
            I’m sitting here right now in my English class reflecting on the hardest time I have been through. Mom has been clean for seven years and she got my little brother and me back. I know no matter what, my mom loves me with all her heart. I’m incarcerated
right now, but I’m starting to change my life little by little. We are only human and we all make mistakes in life. Hopefully, I learn from mine. I think about all the struggles I went through and I know whatever hard times I have to face in the future, I’m  STRONG enough to get through it.

Entry # 790
Walking, lost, looking at the ocean view
eight hundred miles away,
the seven seas permanently confused.
Fine weapon in view (RPG 44 magnum),
it’s a tragic touch
like the waves when they pound against the rock in a strong optimistic roar.
Shiny water reflecting a silver hill across the sky,
temporarily in a satisfied state.

Entry # 791
That One Day
Beautiful white walls
that recognize hard war,
the gut churning police got me anxious
and worked up to be free.
Strong hate and weak love,
new green grass out on the yard,
enraged staff, room-restin’ ass.
Refused to look in your eyes that one day,
to watch freedom die.

Entry # 792
Prison Dignity
Dreams of poinsettia cheeks
Soulless deceit brought on by grey scale sleep
Serenaded hope runs from me
Pitiful kegs full of demons
Citron money puffing green grapes
Saint swisher
Pounds of pride dripping wet
Prison dignity watching Netflix
Mom's regret fills my eyes
"By any means necessary."

Entry # 793
My Parent’s Divorce
I was eight years old when my parents got divorced. I knew my mom and dad weren’t getting along anymore. They had been yelling a lot, but I didn’t see much of it. When they started yelling, Mom would send my older sister and I outside to “play”. We weren’t really what you call bad kids, but we were very sneaky. Even though Mom thought we were oblivious to the fact they were arguing very often, we really knew. The one thing I didn’t expect to see coming was to wake up one morning and find our stuff packed away. Mom just kept telling me, “We are going to stay with Aunty for a while.” The minute my Aunt pulled up and we were walking out the door, I heard my dad say, “Please honey I didn’t mean it, just please stay.”  My mom replied, “It's too late.”  At that exact moment I knew it was over.

Entry # 794
Lines of white
tormented me to destruction
Flames blazing blue
surrounded me as I slept
Red ice seeping through
my veins

My illusions of the dead
floating in water, haunts my memories
A black polished fang digs in
Confused as I withdraw
the knife from my bloodied skin
Sadness falls over me
as my body falls limp to the floor
Desperate to fill my lungs
I grasp for air  
Quietly, I fall into a sleep
I may never escape
I can already see God’s face.

Entry # 795
Birthday Poem
Lifeless, between the two forces,
realizing that I’ve drifted,
curiosity of the April mist,
dull, walking in the olive shadow,
distraught yet cold appreciation of my pride and
my dreams are always right.
That is why I’m continually available for the makeshift dull life;
I’ve wandered into incarceration.

Entry # 796
            I have lived through a lot of hard moments in my life. The hardest of these happened just last month. It all started when I went to visiting. I was very excited to see my mom because I hadn’t seen her in over a month. When I walked into the visiting area I saw my mom, my grandma, my counselor, and a box of tissues and I knew my fear that I had been dreading for over a month now had come true, my great grandma had passed.  
When we went into the family room my prediction was correct. At first I was in shock; I did not cry at all that day. Gigi, as I used to call her, was in her eighties and had dementia very bad, so her passing was kind of a blessing. Afterward I cried a lot with my counselor.
            A short time later, I had to make the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. Two days had passed and my counselor pulled me into the interview room. She told me that the watch commander said I could go to the funeral service, but, I would have to go with a transport officer and I would have to be in shackles the whole time and I couldn’t even dress up. The pressure was on me because I had five minutes to make the decision. The service was the next day. Ultimately, I said I didn’t want to go because I thought it would have been disrespectful to Gigi and the rest of my family to go that way.
I decided to write a letter and have it read at the service. In the letter I wrote how I was feeling at the time and all the memories that I had of Gigi, like going to the pool at her trailer park, going to church with her when I was little, having family hugs in the kitchen, or just sitting around watching T.V. with her.
Gigi and I were very close all through my childhood. Even though she is gone now I think about her every day, even last night I had a dream I heard her voice and woke up sad. I think that she will forever be remembered in our hearts and minds. Rest in peace Gigi!

Entry # 797
Indifferent Garden
In the garden of melody
wealthy blades of grass seem to gleam the inquisitive wild,
seethed with life,
a cringing light that is to be seen.
Leaves sagged to the ground, crushed, and weary,
tormented and deprived,
lifeless and victimized.
Hating the cards I’ve been dealt,
recluse and deduced from the group…
just the shadows of my past.

Entry # 798
30 Years
If I got sentenced 30 years for a crime and my life was put on hold, I wouldn’t be the same. When you take a man’s life you’re taking your own life too. At 18, I haven’t accomplished anything yet. I haven’t finished high school, had a job, or had kids. I haven’t done anything to be remembered for. When you’re locked up for 30 years or more your mind and personality change. You are a whole different person when you get out. Not knowing what’s going on in the outside world sucks. You will not know what your family is going through and will not be able to help them. You feel helpless and worthless; that is the worst feeling. Knowing your whole family was counting on you to be successful and knowing that you failed just because you didn’t like one person. I would get out when I am 48. Half my life would have gone down the drain. You come out an old man with a short future; I think that taking a man’s life is not worth your own.

Entry # 799
Light Through A Cracked Door
Convinced being rebellious was the way,
reassured that smoking rock, letting off an ember glow
would leave my soul cursed,
but I was strangely drawn to the challenge.
Relieved to realize how disappointed and ashamed my family was of me,
easily confused, but now I feel my soul is free.
I can assure you finding God does not come easy.

Entry # 800
Being Me
Sturdy, firm , stable,
lying in my sleep,
hesitant, rotten, wobbly,
walking through the day
strong, fearless, burly
gasping while I breath
weak, delicate, puny, 
when I get restrained 
stout, mighty, powerful,
as I get released
frail, thin, fearful,

Entry # 801
Nightmares of fake “friends” circling me like vultures.
They want me to fail,
smirking as I stumble,
anxious to see my downfall.
I toss and turn
tryin’ not to get burned;
These aren’t the people that I’d die for.

Entry # 802
The Goer
Stink eyed stare at the teacher
he said, "Go see the preacher."
Looking victimized
Feeling paralyzed
Jumping out the window
My Soon to be wife
Is a soon to be widow
Just feelin' the bliss
Wishing I asked for
One last kiss

Entry # 803
A Single Flower
absolute and complete all in itself
pink and green water groves
sitting next to it is where I think about the sun, stars, and a beautiful rose
where I am and where I’ll go
mirrors filled with smoke, or,
rehab and hope I guess
I’ll never know until I go
it’s worth a chance
recovery or dope
it’s a blessing I even get the choice to go
will I sink effortlessly, or,
frighteningly stay afloat?

Entry # 804
White Walls to Blue Sky
Concrete walls of white blocks,
blue doors and the steady tick tock,
yellow shirts and blue slip on shoes.
Sometimes I don’t even have a clue,
if I’m ever getting out,
it all seems like a ruse,
stuck singing the juvie house blues.

Entry # 805
Criminal Acts
Inconspicuous ways,
Diabolical days,
These are the things in which I’ve been trained to follow in case,
When I need to escape the problems I face!
I’ve trapped myself in a maze,
that has swallowed my grace,
I have nothing but time,
but it keeps slippin’ away.
I’ve made up my mind,
‘cuz everyday I just lay,
And think of the crime,
which was my biggest mistake
Aligned with the signs of insanity I’m supposed to break, but not today…
I don’t think I’ll ever endeavor this level I’ve severed to measure-
-my treasures that I’ve earned, oh so cleverly,
And whether or not, I ever get caught, I’ll always be sought
‘Cuz respect is what I’ve got.
So I jot all of my thoughts & remember a lot that I’ve fought to plot,
What is right versus what is not, so I’ve brought to attention,
To stop & prevent it, but it’s a lot to get in with,
So I ought’ to be finished.
No longer will I diminish the facts,
I’ve already cracked once, and came out with Jack,
A maniac I once was, who’s aftermath has been smashed
By my criminal acts, so there’s no going back.

Entry # 806
My Time
I wake up and it’s another day
where I live in my own regret.
I look out my window
and I see death in the faces of
other inmates.
It’s like the grim reaper came
and took the souls out of their bodies,
the walking dead.
I speak for everyone
when I say
we are creatures with one desire and goal:
We’re all falling apart in here,
you may keep hold of us with your minds, or
we may drift away and forget who we are.

Entry # 807
Thoughtful Shadow
My shadow haunts my past,
biting me;
Venom pulses through me with every moment that comes to pass,
a victimized life, uncivilized
we gripe and complain when we don’t get our way,
 “Just for today,”
it’s our bane.

Entry # 808     
            In the summer of 2014 I had to witness the terror of losing a brother. Although we were not blood brothers, we were brothers. Wherever he went I was sure to follow, through whatever would occur. He was my idol and my teacher, teaching me what I needed to know in order to make it on my own.
            One day I awoke early in the morning, saw many voice mails and text messages on my phone. They varied from “I’m sorry” to just saying straight out “****** is dead.“  I replied at first as if it was a joke, but I felt deep inside my heart that something was wrong. After a while I got angry because I could not and would not choose to accept the truth as an answer.
            I was a prisoner of my own grief. I didn’t know how to handle it so I decided to take up drinking to ease my heartache. Over the next few days the grief struck me like a train. I couldn’t stand the pain of seeing his face every night as I lay struggling to sleep.
            Sometimes I would get so drunk that I would wake up the next day with my knuckles caked with dry blood and glass with no recollection of what occurred the night before.
            After a painful six months, eventually, I got sick-and-tired of being sick and tired. I felt I needed to make a change. I worked up the courage to ask for help and got it. I spilled my guts to someone I didn’t know. I troubled them with the things that were troubling me. After I finished saying what I had to get off my chest, it looked like the therapist wanted to go find a corner and sit and cry.
            I thought I was a lost cause, but I found out I had what it took to get past it and to live on. Currently, I am sober and able to cope better with my pain and anguish. But I never forgot who helped bring me up and who helped shape this young man.

Entry # 809
Mothers Tears
When I see tears in my mother’s eyes,
Makes me think of all the pain and damage that I’ve caused,
Mom and grandma stayed by my side along the way,
They still got faith and hope for the day that I do right,
In and out of incarceration,
Broz in the pen,
The results of us living life in sin,
I put my hands together and pray to the man,
Broken hearts to be back in place,
The love of my life can never be replaced,
It feels like my life is on hold,
Even on nights when it’s cold,
Roses on graves for the ones that are gone,
So much pain for so long,
Grounds all wet just like some eyes,
Wait till the end for the prize,
Places of death is what I see,
It’s times like this that makes fear,
Evils around the corner that I turn,
Thoughts in my mind that always burn,
Damage to the soul hurts but no return,
Murder in life can never go away,
Razor wire is there to be
Another person to be let free.

Entry # 810
The Sunrise
Ruby Red sunrise is negotiating with the darkness.
I don't even know what to expect besides
loneliness, anger, and regret.
Opinions keep mocking me,
screaming you're a fool.
Family is appalled,
not understanding why I seem so crippled and fall.
Rays of hope dry up my tearful eyes,
still feeling victimized from my tortured high.
I'm not a creature lurking in the shadows,
I'm a timid girl, afraid of the dark,
ready for a new start.

Entry # 811
Shadow Transformation
Armed and dangerous
with a victimized spray tip,
my can full of cloud burst shadow transformation,
observers are straight hating,
because of my active hand motivation
as I create a venomous graffiti nation 

Entry # 812
Hard Lessons
I’m preparing for this commitment,
retracting my barefoot steps.
Fences on all four corners,
wondering how and why,
infuriating the commitment.
Shuffled concrete and basketball hoops,
Brick walls surround me in confinement,
I’m learning more than I’m supposed to.

Trying to retrace my steps.

Entry #813
Who cares
Why do I try
if things just get worse?
A good person, but maybe cursed.
Or should I ask why am I so blessed?

Incarcerated but my feelings are well dressed.

Smile on my face makes people convinced,

but my tears flow and they’re not all rinsed.
Hidden and restless, crushed,
but what do you care?

Entry #814
As I walk through fields of pavement
all I see are cinder block walls of emptiness,
routinely behind a steel door,

as if it’s some sort of new world.
Controlled by masters,
I guess it’s time to learn some manners.
Missing the aroma of fresh lemon grass,
now sitting in class and trying to graduate.
Maybe everyone one was right, it is too late
or maybe it’s time to change.

Entry #815
Daddy Come Home
Daddy come home, I’m tired ‘a bein’ alone.
Daddy been locked up in the pen for 14 years
He’s got 2 years to go
And then he still won’t be here
What do they have to him away for
Mommy always says it’ll be alright
Daddy come home and hold me tight.
Daddy, why weren’t you there?
It’s not that you don’t care,
But just that you weren’t there
So by not having a fatherly figure
I turned to the streets for any man bigger
As I got older my life grew colder
So here I am one more year ‘til I’m
16 and I still haven’t found the
Right dream
Te quiero, papi
This is not how it’s ‘posed to be.

Entry #816
Don’t Come to Juvenile Hall!
Or you’ll seriously regret it.
No one that comes here
Truly ever forgets it.
Day & night, your freedom is ceased,
Rambling on about being released.
Original charges can always be changed
Pretending to stay calm only fill you with rage.
The minutes are longer
Hours are worse
Everyone’s angered, ready to burst
Segregated from society
Often brought to insanity, slowly you’ll cower
And one word of advice
Prepare for the showers

Entry #817
Obviously drunk,
disappointed father and a crushed situation gone,
lost in the moments;
Welcome to the system.
Behind this locked door doing nothing but thinking about my decisions,
paralyzed mind trying to figure out who I am with every breath.
What I did makes tears run down my face.