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!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

This edition of the Writing Exchange is primarily poetry written for the Poetry 99 contest (Poems under 99 words). Winning poetry can be viewed in the April 6th edition of the Chico News and Review.

Entry #1369
God cried,
As we set up our tent.
His tears were like my 7 year old expectations of life,
Tomorrow, we sell the laptop
For motel and Top Ramen money.
Tonight, we watch Shrek on it.
Some plans fall apart,
Like shaking up a puzzle.
The world is cold,
And I'm sheltered in my mother's warm embrace.
That's what matters.
I'm not meant to suffer through school
Instead my mom and I shower in the creek,
Where I'm one with the minnows,
And free from math class
Entry #1370
Pardon Me
Clenched fist
of restrictions
Left me numb
Careless, inspiration
Of family
Of which I am grateful.
Angry despair
Meets temporary freedom
I hope to keep

Without life's interruptions  

Entry # 1371
White and pink crystals.
Black crashing of consciousness.
I'm expressionless, hopeless, worried.
Gratitude when the gunshots end.
Confident about changing
to make loved ones proud.
Enthusiastically destroying my dependency.
Disfunction turned to respect,
And loyalty to neglect.
Demanding and selfish addiction
Tearing my family apart.

Entry # 1372
Anxious mission
Furious, but patient
Looking inside the mirror
Seeing two people
Cold brick walls
Starving me for freedom
Potion of joy
Wearing off to deception
I numb myself by saying things I don't mean
I'm just a girl trying to break free

Entry # 1373
Got Me Where I Am Today
Tweaking leaves me
White faced
& ready for the mortician
Searching hopelessly
Lost & alone
As my first love was
Running, searching for more rocks to catch my breath on
As I inhale the smoke
Now, sitting, staring at the same four walls
Reminiscing on what landed me here in the first place
False love of chasing black tar

Entry #1374
Locked Away
He lies awake.
In this asylum, they bind him.
Taking his hope, as he prays to go home.
Locked in his head,
Body half dead.
Wish he could sleep,
For it’s the only time he’s free.
Though his thoughts are too deep,
He’s admitting defeat.
As he climbs the winding stairs,
To his room where no one dares.
He finds himself alone,
Concrete chilling to the bone.
He asks the man behind his door,
His body shaken to the core.
Have you ever felt forgotten?”
But he answers not.
The moon light glares through the small window,
His only vision of hope.
I lay here awake,
In this asylum, they bind me.
Losing all hope,
As I pray to go home.

Entry #1375
I Cannot Say
I am from dirt roads and paved boulevards
I am from the weather of unpredictability and endless marching missions of adventure
From endless top ramen noodles to enchanting platters of delicacies
From the matrix of a repeated cycle of predictability
I am from a sandbox of diamonds in the rough who know not
I am from tattered ruins and desolate monasteries
From legends of the dirt to tales of dust
From waste dumps and military fundamentals
I am from curiosity plagued by dullness
I am from anger, happiness, and confusion
From dreams infected with regret
From hope infected with sorrow
I am from kingdoms built upon ashes, trash, and broken glass
I am a from sanctuaries in a sand storm
From divided faiths and false beliefs
From treacherous greed turned to unselfish charity
I am from a place where you know not what you drink
I am from a place where you care not what you eat
From unsatisfiable hunger
From relentless compulsion
I am from a mousetrap for those who are happy to be unhappy
I am from a place where when you stay, you grieve and when you leave, you return
From not a place of no return, but a place of calling
From not a place of what is, but what you make it
Where I am from I cannot say, because where I am from is not where I belong

Entry # 1376
The unnoticed
pain of regret
Overrun by the piercing
gaze of beauty.

Frantically masking
my grave expressions
with a grayish cloak.
Crudely sculpted red fingers
reaching for my soul.

Headlong ambitions
won't allow me
to be consumed.
Stacked between
good and evil
as if I'm the boy in the novels.

Stuck between
living my dreams
and abiding by the laws
of reality.

Entry #1377
El Diablo Rejoiced
Crimson pools of lava,
Bubbling away.
On his magnificent brow,
Sweat beaded.
Not from the scenery of the damned,
But his flaming passion.
Which brought life to his cadaver,
And trapped him in this dimension,
Of eternal false paradise.
In which,
He slaved away.
Traded his soul for the promise of immortality,
And the freedom to lavishly pursue his studies.
In reality, duped.
Awakened from his lifeless slumber with a question.
"How can I enslave humanity?"
He fiended for the answer for countless millennia.
Before replying,
"With this dollar."

Entry #1378
Feeling Ill
These cold hearted brick walls
only get colder as I return

These green t shirts
make my stomach turn

I think about the outside world  so much
it makes my head hurt

I lost loved ones and it makes
my heart burn
Entry # 1379
Where I’m From
I am from city lights and Vegas nights,
From Monday mornings and late night stories.
From the snowy streets and the islands beach.
I am from Sunday school and “Too cool for school.”
From up before noon and sleeping past two.
From Harvard education to a bad reputation.
I am from highs and lows,
Still wondering exactly where I’ll go.

Entry # 1380
A pleasant pain,
With no sign of ease.
Glass blades,
Slashing through my dedication.
Coral gold teeth,
My blank ticket, to amount to nothing.
Glistening doors,
To illuminate the path of my future.
Making my destiny,
As transparent as the oxygen we breathe.
Deep royal doors,
Leaving no chance to escape.

Entry # 1381
Managed Anticipation
Refurbished agitation campaigning in my head
Managing the dis that staff give
Lost in the breathtaking rest we get

The arriving and departing intakes
Aggravated assault on the way
Burglary caused me this stay
Enthusiastic about the future
Waiting for the my release to arrive

Entry # 1382
Making Paper
Family encourages me to make paper
sources assured me I'd get free
I won't break bread with you

As if I run away
Insults show me
I'm doing good

Thrilling bands, cold hearts
Frisky cops
Pungent brick walls
green shirts, weeping hearts

Beautiful sorrow
Diamonds in my mouth cuz
I won't break bread
Trapped like a never ending hangover.

Entry #1383
The Wind
When my day comes, will it last?
Will it stay?
It comes around every year in the month of May.
We celebrate and yell hurray.
We have a fun day.
We pray we get to see another year.
I could be gone and my family will shed tears.
To be honest I am sincere.
Lost my sister for a year.
Gone to the wind and I am shedding tears.
Lost and I still wish she was here.

Entry #1384
(270 Days In) How I Feel
Faded like the addict on the first day of release
Connected- Injected- Rejected- Infected
Jaded like the minority getting questioned by police
Suspected- Collected- Dissected- Inspected
Invaded like a beauty finding ways to make a buck
Selected- Directed- Subjected- Objected
Traded like the wedding ring of the gambler out of luck                            
Prospected- Neglected- Reflected- Deflected

Entry # 1385
Lovely Pain
My heart was betrayed
By her abnegation of love
Dauntless barriers
And laughing white walls.
I wanted amity,
Two years of true love
Left me terrified.
Cold confinement
Lonely nights
This new beginning
Is a beautiful struggle.

Entry # 1386
One Way Mirror
I look for something happy.
But never found.
I'm surrounded by cold cell walls.
I can feel the pain of the people who once stayed in this room.
My cell reminds me of a caged animal,
of what I might be.
I sit in a room of disbelief,
in front of a one way mirror,
knowing I'm being watched.
Looking at the person I have become today,
in the reflection of the window.
I’m a man.  

Entry #1387
Poetry 99
Ninety-nine words but what do they mean,
Ninety-nine words but what’s to believe,
Ninety-nine words to be labeled nice or mean,
Ninety-nine words a conversation or speech,
Ninety-nine words to silently comprehend before opportunity to speak,
Ninety-nine words could be strong or weak,
Ninety-nine words may hurt won’t cause you to bleed,
Ninety-nine words may give you strength in a time of need,
Ninety-nine words where trust you may seek,
Ninety-nine words to differentiate and decipher truth from make believe,
Ninety-nine words to oppose or agree,
Ninety-nine words is more than I will ever need to succeed.

Entry # 1388
To Warm Us
My hunger is dim,
Yet closely found.
My fortress is hostile,
compassionate, brave.
In its hearth, a clueless wood log burns to warm us.
I yearned for the heat to warm my heart,
I was never lucky,
Yet forever blessed.  
Entry # 1389
Rite of Passage
Even with the abuse
my cold heart
never stops beating.

Stressed emotions
always get in the way.
Like grey walls
curling around me.

I'm going on a journey
but I'm too fast to keep up with.
Life as empty as a chair
in an abandoned house.
Feeling mournful.
with burnt passion and cigarette ashes.

The only thing I cared about left
She’s on her own adventure.

Curiosity is bubbling up.
Without restraint.
Running from the law.
She is never coming back.

Entry #1390
Sin Is Ter
The rocks were sinister individuals
They laid reluctantly beneath the trees transfixed
Collaborating together to stir their victim into oblivion
Only to leave behind a crimson mess
Burgundy stripes to caged insanity
What an extraordinary world we live in

Entry #1391
Jaded photography's decision
of disappointment
Shootings joyful protection
relaxed money aggressive
Jewelry hangs from trees
imagined bargain lumbering
From the weeds
overwhelmed dirty leaves
skunks famous smell

Entry #1392
Thinking Twice
Broken window of Xanax
Calming me down
While these brick wall’s surprise at the effort
As if the car door lost its enthusiasm after a hard crash into life
A depressed incarceration
Thinking twice about using
An anxious shot to appreciate this lifestyle

Entry #1393
Young, Blessed, and Free
Shoes laced up
counting guap
Liberty blue strips are my ticket
Fighting alone
Emerald green is all I wanted to see
An eruption
of poinsettia red
More vibrant as I got older
The color consumed my life
my way of living
Actions pushed me
close to death
To solidify my place
in this new life
Tattoos cover my body
like a book
Invincible I thought
I was surprised when
I realized
how unlucky I am
Hands behind my back
Cuffs on my wrist
Listening to the rules I am to follow
for the next eight months

Entry #1394
First In Line
My beautiful girlfriend stacks bands ‘cause she has ambitions
Bands of hope that stack high
Trapped in my cell of hatred
Walls of anger forming in my heart
Cold hearted money builds as sadness increases
Hostile gangs offer incarceration and I'm the first in line
Prisoners increase with money discrete
as if hatred can defeat the love for the streets

Entry #1395
I grew up in the struggle.
My mother grew up in the struggle.
Life is full of struggles
When there was no food in the house but rice
I went and stole me something nice
In and out of this place has me thinking about my life
I pray for brighter days but yet it’s still night
I still have more time but yet it’s alright.
I learned how to adapt to this life.
I wish to go ghost just so I could have peace in my life
I miss my mother the one to tell me it’s alright.

Entry #1396
For My Cousin
Homie it was sad seeing your closed casket
After everything, we had I watched you get blasted
Praying to the Lord with no answer got me asking
Does he even exist
Am I talking to the mist
Should I dedicate the blood from my wrist
But then I think about my life
You didn't take yours so why take mine
You were willing to shine
You kept it strong
Showed me down a path to live my life long
It's a shame your path was cut off
Your blood splattered on my face every time you coughed
I remember the day I felt your heart stop
Now I hear your voice in my dreams
The nightmares keep me from sleep
Scared to close my eyes, so I started to tweak
I see you in my mind and I can't help but scream
Why couldn't it have been me
Just lay me to rest
I'm willing to accept  my death
I'm sick of my life and I'm sick of crystal meth
I'm four months clean
Now I only kick it with myself and me
I know I look happy but it's not as it seems
It's been three years
2015 I was shedding them tears
And I still hear the drowning sound of your voice in my ears
Blood is thicker than water until you mix it with the rain
Then it adds up to the pain
That continues to drive people insane
One day we'll be back together
See you through the bad weather
Rest in peace to ***** **** imma miss you forever
It's been three years since I got that last letter
Saying when your funeral was
That's when I went on a dope smoke buzz now I'm missing you big cuz
And I'm spreading your story because
It needs to be told
You died at 25 years old
They turned your lil homies heart cold
And for what
all over a busted up truck
That **** stupid homie I don't give a ****
I could have helped you save up the change
Now I'm making money in so many different ways
Cashing out without you got me feeling strange
Because money is the reason you died
You traded a couple of grand for the rest of your life
You made the whole family cry
Now I'm just asking God why
You were smart with decisions so dumb
Now them Oxys got me feeling numb
And I'm putting them toxins in my lungs
Try and forget the flash from the barrel of that gun
12 gauge sawed off with a pistol grip
Every night I'm reliving it
Now ****** got hit with the second degree
Now his people are coming after me
Still you can find me walking the streets
All I know is you will be missed
My ignorance is bliss
So imma continue to wish
What else is God gonna make me see
Bin shot at and witnessed death before the age of 18
I been showing thugs love, so what does that make me
From a baby straight to a beast
But I gotta keep it together for my cousin who’s deceased.

Entry # 1397
Souls may creep, weep, and never sleep
They may never eat, cheat, and repeat
They cannot harm me
Never alarm me
So I find myself asking “You and what army?”
They spy and cry, always asking who
They chant and rant, not knowing what to do
No such ghost, only souls who have lost their way
They cannot touch nor harm nor slay

Entry #1398
Growing Up
        I have been on my own since I was five years old. My dad got locked up and I had to be the man of the house. I have five sisters and no brothers. My mom was struggling and needed help, so I started grinding to help my mother and sisters.
        I was getting money and my mom was scared and worried for me. I told her I was going to do anything to get this money. My mom cried every night, praying that I would be alright. My sisters had to get jobs to help pay the rent. We got by every month and had extra money to buy food and clothes.
        Ten years later my dad got released. He stated his own business from some money he had. When his business came together, he started making money. We moved into a house and had extra money.
        I began doing things that made my mom start worrying even more. My sisters called me every day trying to help me, but I ignored them. I started doing the wrong things and ended up getting locked up. I have been in here trying to change my ways. When I get out I am going to change my ways for my family and myself.

Entry #1399
What I Do
Labels are things that make or break you. Thankfully, in my case my label is a positive one that really reflects on me. Most people tell me I'm nice, quiet, and respectful. I give people respect until I'm disrespected. I always give people a chance no matter what. A good label on your name is a good thing because then people would want to get to know you if they do not know you yet. I grew up with the saying, “Treat people the way you want to get treated,” so that’s exactly what I do.

Entry #1400
My Real Name is Mom
I’ve always been the girl to do crimes, then get locked up and do some time. I love to fight and I don’t know why. Now I have a baby and I know she needs me. By the time I get out, she might forget me. I hate to think that but I know I did that. I hate to think she might not have a mom because I only know how to do wrong. Since I am going to be in here for so long, maybe I can work on changing my life around and show my baby what mommy is really about. I can try to make her really proud. I sit in my cell day by day wondering if I will ever change. I always felt everyone saw nothing in me but what I do wrong. Now I want to show them that I am really strong and they are wrong. I want to show them I am a very proud mom.