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, June 30, 2015

Entry #880
I am from old Dale Earnhardt memorabilia scattered carelessly from room to room,
From guitars with faded wood and scratches from the pics
I am from the tomato sauce and macaroni my mother named welfare spaghetti,
From various baked goods when money was plentiful enough to buy ingredients.
I am from the chaos and daily arguments invoked by sibling rivalry
I am from Christmas Eve where we all opened a single present before we laid down to rest
From Thanksgiving where everyone had at least a mild obsession with my mom’s ambrosia
I am from the feeling of failure, with no hope of ever achieving success
From the statistics, that as a foster kid, I will never amount to anything
I am from a time when my older brother smoked more than he ate
I am from the anger, the hatred of myself and those who pain me
I am from the love and affection I receive when all goes bad and I break in my girlfriends embrace
I am from the trust that we won’t ever break, we may stumble, but we will stick
I am from my solitary years where I learned to be a soldier and survive
I am from me.

Entry #881
Counting On
I’m from that place where no child wants to start
From the abuse of drugs, destroying your life
Even when your life hasn’t really begun
From that screaming and begging of a child being taken
Where CPS is on their way
From never knowing your life could be tragedy.

I’m from that place known to kids as foster care
From having nothing to having something,
I’m from the house that people with souls cared for me
From having a piece of shit family to a great family
Where god has come to intervene and save me from terror.

I’m from the place that makes you stronger by living,
Where you know that you don’t want to live that life again
Where you find happiness in the smallest things
Where you find joy in your daily life,
I am a survivor.

Entry #882
Raging Ocean
Visions shrouded by arrays of mixed emotion
Unshed tears, pooling, turn into a raging ocean
I’m drowning, lungs filling up with despair
There’s a life-line in sight, but I just don’t care
Because I’m too proud to ask for help
No matter how bad it’s truly needed
I’d rather be a mass of dead flesh wrapped in kelp
Than recognize my weakness, and actually feed it
So I keep doing what I’m doing, with my nose turned to the sky
Not just in contempt, but an attempt to hide the emptiness in my eyes
So some may look at me with resent, but they don’t realize
That I’m just a lost kid in six foot disguise

Entry #884
Love is so innocent, caring, and kind
She never saw it coming through her gleaming eyes
She never had a clue or some kind of sign
Her life would tumble downward

Hate has been around always with family
She knew what it was but they called it candy
In the beginning youre happy but things always end badly
She never understood

Love never got in it she always rejected
She wanted to keep herself safe and protected
Hate came along and made her feel less neglected
Now love was in it too

Hate has got her right in the spot
Love said shed never try it but it only took once
Now shes an addict and she knows that she wants
Hate is around daily

Love has been flying high up and too far
Hate is encouraging her to reach the moon and the stars
Love got yanked back now shes on ground behind bars
Wishing she never tried it

Entry #885
Where I’ll Go
I’m from rocks, chipped and splintered
From loving arms to a harsh, cold voice
From hot summer days forced to work
I’m from nights of no dinner because of mistakes
From bales of hay stacked like a tower

I’m from razor blades, silver then red
From days of hot tears streaming down my face
From insults screamed out of many mouths
I’m from dirt stained floors, and the smell of chickens
From arguments over religion

I’m from glass and shattered mirrors, shattered dreams
From the ammoniac smell of hair dye and insecurities
From dark eyeliner smudged across my eyes
I’m from bruised knuckles and the sight of blood
From depression and isolation

I’m from years of built up scar tissue
From bland meals of seemingly artificial meat
From the sharp sent of mace tingling in my throat
I’m from clenched fists of suppressed anger
From barbed wire

I can’t change where I’m from…
   But I can change where I’ll go

Entry #886
Anti-Monster Food
                I am from the delicious sizzling cook fried eggs, from scrambled eggs and vegetable oil. I am from the clean kitchen with a shiny clean floor.
                I am from the great oak tree, the red flowers. I am from Sunday grocery shopping and brown eyes, from a short person and changed person and a good person.
                I am from the hard working and good cooking. From God is perfect and vegetables are anti-monster food. I am from sleeping late on Sunday.
                I am from the city and fried potatoes and fried onions and from the wilderness, the city and good cooking. I am from the 50’s.

Entry #887
I am from soda, Sprite and Root Beer.
I am from the city
I am from poppies, the orange flower
I am from opening one present before Christmas and laughing, from Mom and Shelly and Matt
I am from cleaning and respect
From Squirt and Nemo, all in one
I am from God, trusting in him for his faith in me and my family
I’m from Riverside and France, croissant and quiche
From the shelter with no money but random strangers who soon became family, and from weary drugs, overconsuming my mother and sister
I am from the halls in my home, pictures of every picture day, no matter how ugly,
Mom still tells me I’m beautiful.

Entry #888
Spiritual Energy
If you really knew me you would know that I am from the sound of electric guitars
From long days and nights shredding on my skateboard listening to suicidal tendencies
I am from the beautiful smell of my mom’s cioppino  
I am from the wicked anger in my house as a child
I’m from god himself and beautiful nights with my girlfriend starring of into the sunset sky
Complete relaxation, and looking back into her even more beautiful eyes, realizing that everything’s going to be just fine.
I’m from sleepless nights, pissed off mornings, to money filled pockets and glass pipes.
I’m from peace and meditation.
In the end I know I will always love you.

Entry #889
I am from Caramel Frappuccino coffee and Starbucks 
I am from the capital
                where a lot of good and bad things happen
                maybe like the sight of foster care homes.
I am from the poppy with the scent of breeze flowing in the air.
I am from cornbread and singing from Leah, Alex, and Tamara
I am the family where everybody can dance to a good beat and blows up our bathroom.
From “Save the drama for your mama” and “What comes around goes around”.
I am from a Christian home where I felt loved and never alone
That Christian home is where we pray before we eat, I also thank God for waking us out of our sleep.
I am from teddy bears and blankets that showed that I was loved and never forgotten,
Despite where I am now.

Entry #890
City of Grapes
I am from the city of grapes
Where rain is something prayed
Where dryness is normal
I am from where heat is an enemy

I am from where hate walks the streets
Where drugs fill the corner on every turn
I am from the land of mystery

I am from busy nights
Where days are long
Where people sleep their lives away
I am from where lives are lived short

I am from the city of gangs
Where walking down the street is a risk
Where lives could end fast
Where death walks by your side
I am from the city of walking dead

I am from the smell of barbecue
Where food is always served hot
and delicious

I am from where smog fills the air
Where smoke is part of our lives
Where air is bad news

I am from the city of lost houses
Where homes are homes to homeless
I am from the city of neglect

I am from streets unknown
Where every turn is new
I am from the city in the bowl
I am from a valley undersea

Entry #891
Four Wheel Drive
I am from the rusty old basketball hoop with the chain net.
And long summer days swimming in the pool.
I am from the cup of noodles steaming on the counter.
From the cold pizza hidden in the fridge from my brothers
I am from the four wheel drive jeep trips to the snow.
I am from the long drives to Fort Brag.

Entry #892
Stay Strong
I am from Sloppy Joe's on a Friday night, from Wonder Bread and wonderful days.
I am from playing videos games with my sister.
I am from the blood red rose in the night sky, and a big sunflower in the day time.
I am from going to Cornerstone Church, praising the lord, and blue eyes looking up in the sky, from my cousin Koi and my little brother Booboo and from the white boy family.
I am from skin cancer on our arms and high blood pressure from “never back down” and “stay strong.”
I am from a Christian family and “Believe in the man up there.”
I am from Kaiser Hospital and from the third generation,
T - bone steak, and BBQ ribs.

Entry #893
Countless Nights of Insomnia
If you really knew me, you would know
About the countless nights of insomnia, stealing away my energy each passing day
You would know the scars that I wield on an emotional level, forcing me to carry the weight of my past with every step I manage
You would know about the long-lasting hope that seemed without reason, year after year as I waited for at least a miniscule attempt of reconciliation with my family
About each foster home, the countless attempts of the system to make me a controlled puppet through medication and false affection
If you really knew me, you would know,
About each year growing up that I had struggled through, barely passing each grade, feeling terrible, illiterate
You would know, my deepest desires that motivate me and drive me to do things that I, myself, have no explanation for
About the darkest, most terrifying fears that haunt my reality, not allowing me escape because before anything else they are what’s real to me

Entry #895
I am from what seems like broken glass and hot water
I am from a childhood were they see you in pain but why bother
I am from what you would call “the lab”
from never knowing when the next time was that I would get to see my dad
I am from seeing pain and death so much that I am numb
I am from the day I was born I had to grow up
from actions before my thoughts can even show up
I am from spending three days locked in a closet when I was five,
the day I lost my sanity, no lie,
to this day the pain sits with me
I am from a place where I try to live out the day, never knowing if there will be a tomorrow

Entry #896
I eat
When I’m fed
I sleep
When I’m told
My instincts are wild
That’s what makes me so bold
I move
When it’s cold
I sleep when it’s hot
Sometimes I wish I never got caught
I’m a caged animal

Entry #897
I Love, I Hate (My Mother)
Hey, can you hear me?
Are you there?
Do you want to see me?
Do you even care?
Dont you want to know how your children are doing?
Hey Mom, do you love me?
Can you hear me crying?
Can you hear me choking down my sobs?
Can you see the pain and sorrow in my eyes?
Do you see my cries wracking my body as my head bobs?
Of course you wouldnt
After all this time I shouldnt-
I shouldnt be surprised
Im a fool, a fool for all those times I cried
I let the waves erode me down
The tears smother me, Mom, I just might drown
But do you care?
Youve never been there
If you do, you have a sick way of showing it
You make me feel like shit
Mom! I love you
But cant you love me too?
Cant you share just a smidge of your love?
Or do my words just go above-
Above your head?
Sometimes I feel as though my heart is made of lead
Heavy, sinking never free
I miss you so much
Sometimes I feel its because of me
But then I feel furys clutch
Why leave your children and their fathers alone?
You couldnt even bother to say goodbye?
Are you really too busy to pick up the phone?
Whats taking up your time?
Is it all those men?
You make my teeth grind
But why should you care? Youre at it again
I miss you, Mom, but am I wasting my breath?
I miss you, I love you, but am I just another regret?
Im tired of being tugged around
Why only be here a year, then gone for five?
Are you leaving me, your daughter, for a man you found?
Do you realize how youre affecting my life?
Do I mean nothing to you?
My brothers and sister too?
They need you, Mom, as do I
We need you, Mom, dont let us cry
Please dont let us cry
Im sorry

Entry #898
Death Never Knows 
I am from bruises and sorrow
I never wanted to go back home
From the tracks of getaway
To wandering on my own
From the broken glass caused by anger
Running away odds never in my favor

I am from needing someone to comfort me
But all I see is defeat
From rocks being thrown and 40’s bottles
While it flows away my anger follows
From the harsh lands of desertness
To trying to live the American dream

I come from fighting foes
To scars that will always show
From crazy life
DEATH to come
But will never know

Entry #899
Yes Mama
I’m from Fallon Nevada, where tumble weeds are always at our feet.
I’m from family barbecue’s that fill the air with the smell of meat.
I’m from calling everyone “Mr. or Mrs.”
I’m from “Yes mama,” or else discipline.
I’m from my parents not being around very much.
Where life is hard and filled with all kinds of such.
I came from snow and strong winds that blow.

Entry #900
Tumble Weeds Fly By
I am from where you drive through miles of dirt and oilfield’s. Where there’s only the smell of work. Where you hear every little thing including the rigs in the lonely night. Where you hear the animals wandering through the creek. In the day time you see tumble weeds fly by. In the afternoon there is a peaceful breeze. I am, also, from where the hot sun reflects off of the beautiful rocks. Where all you smell is cactus and desert, but, it is a nice thing. A place that could change to the worst in the winter if the storm comes. You can hear it for a long time until it leaves miles away. I love the smell of the morning freeness and the sight of all the huge red rock’s. It is still so beautiful in the place I call home.

Entry #901
Purple Grapes on a Vine
I’m from watching football on Thanksgiving Day,
From egg hunts and “don’t do that, and use your manners.”
I’m from a home that was clean, worthy, and kind of like a nest.
I am from my sister’s bicycle crash where she smashed her head into a garage window.
I ‘m from a father who was a soldier in the Army for 15 years, and cared about his country, now suffers from PTSD.
I am from a family,
that is like sweet watermelon starting to ripen.
like purple grapes on a vine.

Entry #902
Wisdom Is Knowledge
Wisdom comes with age
Isolated from the rest of the world
Sorrow for the actions I have taken
Defeated by these stone cold walls
Optimistic is what I shall be
Maturity is what many kids need

Illusions is what friends can be
Superior is what many want to be

Knowledge comes with wisdom
Notorious I once was
Opportunity I once had
Wasting is what I have been doing with my life
Leader is what I hope to become
Eager to be outside these walls
Dull is how I feel
Genius I was once called
Extraordinary is what describes me

Entry #903
Wild Fire
I move with the wind
I grow in the heat
I constantly wonder
Without moving my feet
I shine in the dark
Some call me art
The ending to this fire
Is only the start
I’m a wild fire

Entry #904
No More Chances
Love told hate he going to hold it down for her.
Ride them eighteen months out with her.
Love didnt keep his word.
Sent her a few letters and that was it.
Hate was kind of hurt.
She told herself she needs to move on.
Love always told Hate he’s sorry and really going to change.
Just give him one more chance.
Love lied.
He hasnt changed
He already going to jail.
No job and back to drugs.
Hate tells herself she deserves better.
Someone that respects her and has something going for himself.
Hate made up her mind.
She’s done giving Love chances!

Entry #905
Colorful Walls
I am from encyclopedias and colorful walls,
from zucchini patties to homemade spaghetti.
I’m from Easter egg hunts abroad with barbeques a plenty.
I am from where my father says, “Actions speak louder than words,” and “Silence is golden,” because words still hurt.
I’m from my ZZ top looking uncle and one you would not want to talk back to.
From music from all generations loud enough it shakes the walls!
I am from half burnt candles, to crispy shake and bake pork chops
and a grandpa that never slows down.

Entry # 906
                Love makes me smile. Hate makes me cry. Love keeps me close. Hate leaves my side. Love knows just how to treat me. Hate doesn’t even see me. Love always stays true. Hate turns me black and blue. Love takes a chance for me. Hate turns away to laugh at me. Love never fails. Hate sends me away like I am just a piece of mail. Love says I can do the impossible. Hate goes crazy with the Hennessy bottle. Love picks me up when I fall to the floor. Hate will leave me there and call me a whore. Love is serious none of it is a game. Hate screams and shouts calling me out of my name. Love fills my heart and completes me. Hate tells everyone that I am easy.
                There were many times I tried to escape, but the pain and anger made me afraid. With too much in my head I was going insane. I was too stressed to notice that my life went down the drain. I can’t say that it was easy to just walk away. But I knew I would lose my life so I couldn’t stay. I didn’t know how to say it but I had to be straight. I said I’m leaving, I’m tired, I’m all done with you HATE. Go ahead and do what you do because I am no longer afraid. Everything has changed. I had a very long road and I made some mistakes. LOVE is my future. My past is something that I HATE.

Entry #907                           
Under the Pillow
I’m form Shasta Cola, and Mac ‘N’ Cheese with too much salt
I’m from “There’s the brat.”
I’m form a lovely, but sociably isolated house
I’m from my mom crying a lot
I’m from Curious George
I’m from “Say please, and thank you!”
I’m from watching Pops, delirious, and dying, fight the Enloe security guards
I’m from my uncle dressing up as a burlesque Easter Bunny
I’m from resenting white trash
I’m from and abundance of love, poorly received
I’m from finding a shiny ralo under the pillow
I’m confused

Entry #908
Caged Bird
Down my narrowly hate filled cage,
I cannot see through the red rage,
Is doing drugs the normal thing?
But when I'm on I feel like a trap King,
In a fearful trill,
While I'm running from the cops on the hill,
My blood is red on the cruel bars and the pain still throbs in the old scars.

Entry #909
Curious Cat
I constantly wonder,
Wonder about me
Wonder about you
I see the world in my eye
What a wonderful view
I look for all clues
‘cause this world is a puzzle
I speak with no sound
As if I was speaking with a muzzle
I look all around
But I still have not found.
I don’t know what I’m looking for.

Entry #910
I'm from cigarettes and Pinesol
From Top Ramen, French toast, and dish soap
I'm from liven comfortable, ice tea and gasoline
My grandma really loved me
I had everything I wanted; now it's gone
I'm going through hell
I'm in my cell and when I'm out
I gotta fend for myself.

Entry #911
While hate seems confused
Loves says come home 
Hate feels abused
Love doesnt understand
Why hate keeps running away
Love had a heart attack
Hate breaks down crying
Love survives
By now hate is alright
Love has done so much for hate  
But hate doesnt appreciate
Love is worried
Hate is in a hurry to go back to where she belongs, home
Love is relieved to see hate
Hate is more than happy to be where she is
Love is slowly dusts off the hates heart turning it to gold.

Entry #912
I'm from a small, tan house packet with tequila, Kahlua, and beer
I'm from a street called California where we eat beans, tortillas, and asada
I'm from a house that's swept, cleaned with Pine-Sol, and has 3 beds and 1 bath
I'm from weed dead persimmon tree, cactus plants and walnut trees
I'm from a town called gangster were there's weed and poverty
I'm from where claiming is not an option
Where kids kill kids
I'm from where kids don't have a father
From food stamps, low income housing, and shots fired
I'm from 211, homicide, and GTA is inspired
I'm from were crackheads wander to your front door
Where having a gun is respected

Entry #913
Courage, Hope, and Fear
I am from coronas with lime and marlbro 100’s,
From shoes with holes and prepaid flip phones.
I am from a violent family, from fights over football games to who drank all the kool-aid.
I am from shoebox money and couch change,
from T.V. dinners and Top Ramen with Tapatio.
I am from police raids and ankle monitors,
from paranoia and insanity.
I am from food stamps and child support,
from my mom’s arthritis and aching bones, which cold weather only made worse.
I am from my Aunts cancer and my grandmother’s diabetes,
From courage, hope, and fear.