The pen and I haven’t always gotten along. Even ‘til this day, we have our disagreements. At times, the ink is offensive, a Molotov of oppressed thoughts dropping innuendos through political windows, a pineapple grenade exploding fragmented emotions across margins. Some days, the pen tip can be as sensitive and lovable as a Care Bear’s stare.
My discrepancies come from the vulnerable realness, the inner truth it brings out of me; a master of penmanship, yet a slave to the page. If you ever got the chance to visit my handwriting, you’d see the pressure of indentation, the pressed tension of the ink on a single sheet, the woodpecker torturing the tree with the tip of its beak. Tree bark doesn’t sound off like dogs do. They take their pain in silence, like prisoners.
Where I came from, where I’ve been, where I’m at, or where I’m going. Each one of those sentences holds hands with relevance. Similar to every man sentenced to corrections, experiencing repentance but never forgiveness of self or anyone else.
Words can be convincing or convicting…and behind these fences certain content can carry major consequences.
I didn’t always go this hard. I was a shy kid, a minority amongst minorities. Nor was I a problem child or a child with a problem. I didn’t jump off the porch late or beat the street prematurely. I’m from the sidewalk not the asphalt. Off the blacktop, not the corner block. As a kid I remember playing contra on Nintendo, not knowing the CIA was also playing contra, supplying rebels in the jungles of Nicaragua. And Scarface has Cuban Marielitos overrunning the streets of Overtown. Somehow, we become the labels we’re given. They expect it and we accept it. Riding along, bobbin’ our heads to the kind of music society likes…the stereo-type. Never recognizing the intricately placed urban landmines in our communities. The televised programs that programmed us, the elements of group conformity, the euphoric attempted escape of drugs, the influence of music, the true and false narratives of “Biggie and Pac.”
I suppose most of us constructed our foundations with Jenga pieces, and halfway towards adulthood, while scaling our imaginative skyscrapers. We made a wrong move demolishing our frivolous building blocks. Our futures crumbled, we Peter Parker’d head first into a jail cell, caught up in a systematic web for trying to be “fly.” Left sitting in a box for decades scrapping pieces of peace up off the floor in our minds, ‘til eventually this cage robs your memory bank of everything you once held sacred.
The majority of us in here have eraser burns on our souls. Due to a mistake made before the age of 25, before our brains folded into development, before our minds thought logically and rationally, before critical decisions came with multiple choice answers. When desire, temptations and impulses governed us, kids making permanent marker mistakes. Grown men, after years of waiting, struggling with fate, and avoiding a man-made given fate, keeping reality at our peripherals, to keep from going insane, keep from belly flopping to a concrete coffin of depression and desperation.
How do I define a life sentence without diving into the murky waters of my mind?
What good is a calendar to a blind date?
How do you wrap your hope around a clock that mocks you, a second hand that backhands you every second when you’re a bastard of Father Time?
How do you show society that you’ve changed when it deletes you from existence?
Mankind has forgotten how to treat man kind.
I was asked to drop a few lines about my journey as a poet, about what I consider success and disappointment. Journeys, sometimes you’re the driver and sometimes you’re the hitchhiker. But most times you’re chauffeured in the back bucket seat of a squad car by an officer who has no history of your upbringing. No idea about pre-implanted circumstances, booby-trapped backgrounds or the devastation he has done to a misled teenager, or the journey he’s caused a fragile mind to embark on.
My first poetic line might have been snorted off the chalk board by a biased third grade teacher, who mistook my creativity for snarky. Or maybe my imagination developed an imagination while I sat in isolation from 20 to 22. With no window and no view and no sun…so I create one. Or maybe it was at the age of 23, in jail hollerin’ like Tarzan to a young woman four floors beneath me, pouring my thoughts into an exhaust fan.
It’s difficult to entertain success when disappointment is a constant accomplice, when you’re tightly handcuffed and being interrogated by sugar-free detectives coercing and manipulating your scientific medically proven underdeveloped mind. Standing trial is nothing like a playground double-dog dare. There’s no half-way point, no communicating, no helpful conversation between you and the police. No understand, what you call reason, they call motive. No understanding of law or the psychological games they play. That was never taught in my school’s curriculum and I graduated at 17; judicially uneducated, while working a full-time job to lessen my mother’s burden of providing for my sister and me.
My fist offense, my first attempt, earned me a ghetto boy scout’s badge of honor. I was 20 years old juggling a natural life sentence + 25 years + 15 years. Some numbers just don’t add up when you’re an adolescent. That was almost 19 years ago.
It’s the hurtful memories that never expire, while the good ones become endangered until they’re extinct. I’ve been through a lot of pain, through more shit than a plumber. But I never forget the pain that shook my soul. The worst feeling a son could feel, my mom sobbing on my chest, out of breath, questioning a God who didn’t show up to court that day. I couldn’t console or hug her because my hands were cuffed behind my back. The worst pain I have ever felt was watching my mother cry and knowing I was the reason why…my soul has become a wishing well full of teardrops.
All apologies come after the fact, like most regrets come after the act.
I’m tired…so tired…I just want to go home.
My disappointments can be potential expectations, flips of a conscious coin, state heads or tucked tails, falling into the well of my soul.
Success is my mother’s smile, how she still think I’m her baby, how my wonderful wife absorbed my words through an exhaust vent and to this day keeps me alive with her love and faith.
How according to number crunchers, my son should be a statistic because I became one, but he’s not, and I’m proud of him.
My success is my words escaping this place.
And when I do, my life might just be the greatest poem ever, but for now my words are free, so this might be the beginning of a long-awaited journey…and this time, I’m in the driver’s seat.