About Free Write “This is not about ‘rescuing’ young people. We can’t rescue them, because they have to save themselves, tapping into their own creative energies. They have to become masters of their own lives – with their autonomy and integrity strengthened in the process. Finding their places in this world is an intensely personal endeavor. But where is the community that prepares them, sets clear and consistent parameters, and when the ordeal is over, welcomes them home?” – Luis J. Rodriguez, Hearts and Hands: Creating Community In Violent Times Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program provides literacy tutoring and arts programming to youth incarcerated in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago. We believe that each of our students can become the narrators of their own stories and authors of their own futures. Our world-class Teaching Artists engage students in creative writing, visual art, music production, yoga, and publishing. We want to extend our deepest gratitude to our Teaching Artists – Elgin Bokari Smith, Roger Bonair-Agard, Lamon Manuel, and Laine Curtis – for bringing their passion and skill to Free Write students. Free Write programming is made possible by the generous support of the Charles E. Marks Charitable Trust, Chicago Community Trust, Illinois Humanities Council, Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation, Oppenheimer Family Foundation, Burners Without Borders, and Big Shoulders Coffee. Thank you all so much! Thank you to the administration and staff of the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center for granting the youth incarcerated there access to Free Write and other arts programming. We also want to thank the Nancy B. Jefferson School faculty and staff for the encouragement and space they give to all of the students, especially those involved with Free Write. Special thanks goes to the staff and board members of Chicago Lights, especially Executive Director Stacy Jackson, whose collaboration, guidance and insight has been crucial to the success of Free Write. Lastly, we send our love to Amanda Klonsky, the former co-director of Free Write programming. She is now helping youth who leave detention get re-enrolled in school. Thank you, Amanda, for the seven years you spent helping to build Free Write into a successful, vibrant program! In Peace, Ryan Keesling and Mathilda de Dios Free Write Program Directors
2 SIGHT & SENSE
24 LOVE & FAMILY
36 DREAMS & FREEDOM
My Time Time keeps on slippin’, While I’m sittin’ in here trippin’. There’s nothing that I can do, Just waiting ‘til I get removed. I’m sick of waiting, waiting, waiting. While life stays going, on and on and on. Maybe I’ll wake from this nightmare, this is a nightmare. Isn’t it?
SIGHT & SENSE Sound The sound of my heart the deep sound in the dark terror of the feasting shark and Kim K. poodle bark the sound of an electric spark sound is everywhere sound is there when you slide in your underwear sound come in every way some say sound is what formed the Milky Way, but anyway the sound of love is soft and warm and the sound of hate is hot and baked some sounds make me shiver and shake the sound of laughter after blowing out candles on a birthday cake sound is all around us but sometimes it’s something we can’t trust sound can trick you into believing something that you don’t see with your own eyes so don’t be surprised just hear it, love it but don’t always trust it
Hands Hands to eat. Hands to pull the trigger. Hands to shoot the basketball. Hands to put my clothes on. Hands to throw a punch. Hands to turn a page on my life. Hands to put that ring on my fiancée. Hands to make love with. Hands to dial numbers. Hands to play video games with. Hands to hold my newborn child. Hands to hold hands. Hands to tattoo your daughter’s face on your chest above your heart to show your love for her. Hands to open the door to see my wife holding my newborn son. Hands to throw gangs signs at my rival gang. Hands to get handcuffed with. Hands to write this poem called “Hands.”
Sounds The sound of my alarm clock ringing to inform me that it’s school time My mom flipping the eggs that are about to be dissolved by my stomach acid The creak of the rusty screen door opening Broken bottles, blunt wrappers, empty weed baggies, Burger King burgers half-eaten While starving crack heads sleep on cardboard boxes Leaking gasoline, dropping gas pipes that stain the pavement that will forever stay As well as blood stains remind the hood of the people it’s lost Young teens hiding guns in bushes before entering school Weed smoke intoxicating young pregnant women Coming from the baby daddy that’s claiming the child isn’t his Scurrying footsteps follow behind as they hurry to class not to be late Bell ringing to inform me I’m late for the first class of the year
Windows Do U know what life is like from this side of the glass? Filled with doubt about yo’ future and confusion about yo’ past What will tomorrow bring? Another day locked up Unless you just a person wit’ a certain kind of luck Surrounded by at least 10 people at most times of the day In my mind, gives a man no reason to even feel this way But if that’s true then why is it I’m always so alone? Wit’ no one who could overstand, I’m in here on my own We were born by ourselves and they say we die the same So if I died right now and by myself I know it would be no blame To Love and Hate, To Kill and Take Do I deserve what somebody else make? I say yes, my fam would say no The streets say yeah, my fam would say no. The streets would say yeah, the judge say no But the judge don’t know how much I had to grow From young and ignorant as a child The old me is distant, many miles, from this side of the glass... A door gets closed, a window opens but that just ain’t true When they lock yo’ door and you just hoping they don’t throw the book at you Back and forth them days to count, praying for release But until I get back to my home, I got no chance for peace Even though it’s easy to adapt and I’ll always be solid wherever I’m at My soul won’t never be laid back, ‘cause my mind ain’t where my body at Mind in one place, Heart in another ‘Cause I was betrayed by a dude I called my brother That’s pain and regret at the highest level And I know I’m done now so they can grab the shovel ‘Cause I’m dead to the world, or at least inside I am The love is off my star unless you Fam What could I do for redemption? How could I save myself? These are just some thoughts of mine while sitting in room 12 Deep-rooted family issues that none but us could see I barely know anything about my own damn people So where that family tree! But I can’t say I’m tripping too hard, just want a legacy that’s gonna last.... And these are just the thoughts of a man on the wrong side of the glass..
The PEN I write in cursive Those deadly verses I’m the pen The thoughts within So I operate with the Authors and songwriters I include the biters teachers, students I release their pain like the pouring rain You and I they criticize like crippled guys I am mightier than the sword so I penalize I can see everything that comes to be We open eyes just you and me just understand the pen is me.
24–12–6–3–1 A brilliant mind taught nothing but lies, Being told nobody really cares He screams, but like the wind, Nobody hears his cries. Anybody there? He screams, but like the wind, Nobody hears his cries Anybody there! Screams like the wind nobody hears, Like wind screams. Wind.
My Homie Showed Me You showed me how to bag up the dope you told me how to sell that coke you showed me how to never be broke I was young and yet you still showed me how to hold load a gun You showed me how to squeeze a trigger if any anybody got out of pocket You told me to always love my homies and never be fake You told me to be real and yeah, that being real put me in this place Now I’m here waiting to go home You never told me this wasn’t the contract You never told me that if I ever got caught I was going to fight against the state
Comfortable in My Chair I have fought Martians on the sun I am more deadly than a gun I run Society Something wrong with me; I need psychiatry I broke the DaVinci code I make sure the highest power knows God told me I am a god So I act as a god If I didn’t I would be a fraud I touch ice and it melts Some people are too dumb to even help I got a house in Heaven I inherited I make the army look at my guns They stare at them I can get close to Medusa and cut her hair If I get the death penalty I’d be comfortable in the chair I make the Egyptian’s gold look like coal. I’m young, but have a mind like I’m old.
Now they trying to take me away You never said that if I believe in God I was going to be safe You never showed me how to escape this pain I lost that chapter So please help me out this death road.
Life I look out my window at night. I see the big buildings with the flashing lights. I look up at the moon and see the stars shining bright. I think to myself how I want the good life. But I truly don’t know what’s that life. I picture being rich with no worries in life. Doing good without having to think twice. But it’s hard to turn my back on my old life. Jeremiah G. Nose
A Classical Day in the Ghetto
Nose help me smell everything around me. Nose to help me know when I need a shower Nose to help me know when someone else need a shower Nose to pick when I have something in it Nose to touch when I am thinking Nose to sense when something is bad Nose to smell my girl’s fragrance Nose to pick out real good cologne Nose to wipe when it is runny Nose to blow when I have allergies Nose to shave when I have hair in it Nose to heal when it is bleeding Nose to put a bandage on when I have a scratch Nose you can flare up when you are angry Nose to move around when it itches Nose that could sniff cocaine Nose that you need Nose that you could not live without
Celebrating their success, Friends take shots and pass around a blunt Getting higher than the empire state They laugh and joke around. A phone rings, bringing them all back to earth He answers, Hello? I can’t do it no more, I’m tired Wait, who’s this? I’m tired, I’m a just do it No one will care anyways, it won’t make a difference. What do you mean? I care, where are you? I’ll go pick you up. It’s not worth it, trust me. Please, just trust me. Don’t bother. Train sounds closer. She ends more than just a call. Shocked, he wonders why, Friends interrupt him Joking they say, you killed her Silence fills the room They sense the tension So they pass him the blunt She was right
But at the same time wrong? It will and won’t make a difference Either way, life will go on.
I do 45 years it’s like I’m leaving this place in a hearse.
All I See
When Pain Unites
All I see is pain All I see is shame All I see is greed All I see is a lonely seed All I see is hunger Please let it be no longer All I see is detainment My life no longer the same All I see is guilt All I am is filth All my family is gone Here I am singing this sad song All I see is a coward All I see is weak This is all I see in the eyes of me
She downs her cup, A mixture of vodka and punch She takes a puff of weed, She looked into my eyes Exhaling as she says, “I’m just trying to have a good time”. Yet I seem to disagree, Like I hear her cries and screams Letting me know her presence here is for a very different reason, She is searching for the love Her parents never gave her. She is looking for someone, Who will listen to her pain And not judge her for her actions, Someone she could hold That will hold her back, Never letting go Someone who won’t just use her only for drugs, money and sex. How do I know? Well I drank my cup of liquor, A mix not so different from hers I took my puff of weed, Then I looked into her eyes And I heard my cries and screams.
I Was Born I was born in water swimming like a fish I threw a coin in the well waiting for my wish I’m strong as the winter wind tall like the Sears Tower I’m filled with many secrets like a little gun with big power My city attacked me as if I did 9/11 when I smoke I get so high I feel like I’m in heaven I been locked up for some months but it feel like it’s been years I call my little sister and I can’t hear nothing but the tears The pain feels like it will never stop, like a woman giving birth it’s sad to see me leave cuz if
Behind These Walls Behind these walls, Is where men and women are punished for their alleged crimes. But people on the other side of the wall Think that we are caged animals. I used to think that too, Believe the stories people use to tell me. All that changed when I came behind these walls. At first I thought the stories were true, but I was wrong 7
All those stories I heard about people being caged and treated like animals. I didn’t see animals I saw young men like myself. Who made a mistake just like me. Yeah some of them gang bang, but they really didn’t have a choice. All I know is we are intelligent young men. Who are just locked up behind these walls.
A Bottle Late at night, some hope, some trouble and a bottle. Fast life, addiction can’t stop, full throttle. Had a long day need 2 drown some pain. Trying 2 4get what’s going on, go and C Jose. Mind full of stress, need 2 get it off. Put the bottle 2 my lips throw it when it’s gone. Head start spinning. Poison start hitting, getting tired of sitting, I walk and start tripping. But damn still remember, time 2 get more. A good night, a short walk away at the store. Call the big homie, I’m 2 young to buy, I usually could get it but 2 drunk ta try Got what I need, don’t want no weed JB, Erk and Jerk all friends, lost up in New Amsterdam Svedka clear like water, I’m trying 2 dive in. Bottle deep wit Everclear pray it never end But it is gonna end, but my problems ain’t gonna end I just do what I can while I’m drunk not 2 sin Whole lotta drugs in the pockets of these pants, somebody really need take this 7 out my hands Police sirens, I try ta move fast and damn, now I’m on the ground, How did I fall down? Uh oh dangerous now, get up and look around, don’t make a sound, I’m drunk an’ bound 2 drown Can’t stay focused yea I’m feeling it-- a lot, I think im’a see the dickbois whooping-- but they not Got lucky they rode past, now what 2 do? Take another drink, sit down and try ta think I’m gone. Damn, I’m gone. How am I gone make it home... I can’t walk there, ‘cause I don’t know which way 2 go I don’t remember no numbers and anyway I lost my phone so I just sit here ‘til all my liquor gone What’s gonna happen next? Cain’t say ‘cause I don’t know, except 4 drink after drink back 2 back in a row I live the fast life, addicted, full throttle. I’m sitting outside late at night wit’ all my problems and a bottle.
Justin B. 8
Game This life Is A Game I Wake Up Everyday And I’m Still In This Game. Same Shirt, Same Pants, And Same Routine Everyday. Eat Shower Sleep I Wake Up Every Night And Think How Life Would Be If I Haven’t Chosen This Game. Same Controls, Same Levels Everyday In This Game. Eat Shower Sleep It’s Been A Year And Still Ain’t Beat This Level In This Game. Eat Shower Sleep Sometimes I Think How Can Someone Do 60 Years In This Game. Alex
Hands Hands to hug hands to write stories, poems, songs. Hands to eat food hands to play video games hands to love hands to drive hands to work hands to cook dinner hands to wash hair hands to wash dishes hands to play spades, black jack hands to use computers hands to type poems and stories hands to paint pictures hands to put a ring on my wifeâ€™s finger hands to read a book, the bible hands to do sign language hands to do contractor work hands to block hits hands to grab a big booty hands to hold a cane hands to put on clothes hands to put on shoes hands to share any and everything hands to rub your head when you have waves like me. Richard S.
Can I Live? Stuck in jail, life ain’t looking as good as it should. Thinking about the past, things done been better Problems come, problems go. Stuff happen, that’s something I know. To talk to eat to drink to live To talk to eat to drink to live I’m just asking Can I Live? I don’t know who I’m asking but can I live? Am I gonna be locked up? Am I gonna be dead? Will I be lost some place with prices put over my head? Can I Live? I’m just asking can I live? My Family, My People, will they remember me? Do my friends still care for me? Please don’t let me be forgotten, Can I Live? Life goes by fast, Dumb choices just shorten it. I’m wondering who gonna be the next no-name murder? Is it me? Is that my DESTINY? Dear Lord can I live? I know I might say that I don’t care I know I might say that it don’t matter I know I might say we all gotta go but when I die I don’t know if God gonna save my soul So lemme ask you Dear Lord… I don’t really know what’s going on in this world. Everything confusing. They say good times go fast but hard times won’t last. We get good things that we wouldn’t expect, we lose loved ones to the system or to death. Nobody could ever tell me what’s next, so Lord just tell me... I wanna know. I just gotta know before it’s my time to go. This is the way that people go. I don’t know why but people die so ayyyyy, before I die I needa know, Can I Live? It’s my choice. I got one voice Im’a open up and speak. I can only ask me Damn JB, Can I Live?
Imagine Close your eyes Clear your thoughts Let your breath go Now imagine this, Thatâ€™s your last breath Last breath of fresh air Fresh air from the world World of corrupted people People with evil intentions Evil intentions toward loved ones Ones who love you the most Also ones who hurt you the most Mostly emotionally pain hurts the worst Worse than you skinning your knee after falling Falling into the trap of your weakness
Anything can happen you put your mind to Minding your own business might save your life Your life doesnâ€™t have a future without a past Someone elseâ€™s past holds many stories Stories that might just lay hidden forever Forever betrayed I will feel for a very long time Time will only tell how someone really is
Smell weed smell cigar smell that lovely sex smell in the morning shower smell grandma cooking smell outside smell night smell summer smell winter smell fall smell happy smell playful smell car smell perfume smell new clothes smell grass smell cake smell dinner smell lunch smell wave grease smell
Denzel D. 16
Close your eyes Clear your thoughts Relax your breathing Now imagine this You couldn’t relax no more No more hugs from someone special Special holidays just vanish Young people vanishing from their abused home Abused homes are everywhere but nothing’s Usually done about the abused ones Going down the wrong road Road of death or the big house Our house is something most of you haven’t seen Bits and pieces from the past find their way into the future In your future you don’t want to see your bed next to your toilet in a locked brick room Either wake up from your life of crime getting in trouble should flow past you like the wind Really we let our life just pass us by Time is what we waste the most throughout life Life, my life, your life is so precious Precious innocent children getting shot for no reason Reasons are unknown for people who kill themselves Kill you softly is what guilt does to people with a heart Heartless people who are behind the gun kill, not the gun Gunned down while trying to save someone else Nothing else on the news but innocent young people caching a bullet meant for someone else Now imagine that Grab your first breath Open your mind up Open your eyes
Low Deep down up under the dirt is my LOW way beneath the bodies with no souls Low is no light, no hope, no way up Rock bottom is real Low but mine lower than that Low is lost to the world and lost to yourself, swimming in pain never to be dealt with A judgment day everyday without repentance, Low ain’t got a conscience Having no fear or remorse can take u deep past points beyond imagination. Low is sober ‘cause sober ain’t high. That means low and dark where the sun don’t barely reach. That’s cold, but low don’t hurt ‘cause low don’t feel. Disappointment could knock someone off their ladder or crumble their staircase to pieces But they still ain’t gonna feel my low. 17
This low ain’t at the bottom of the hill where all the stuff rolls down. But if you follow that ball of stuff off the edge of the cliff that’s down the road you might find me hanging around Low is tired, mad, confused, sad, desperate, violent. unstable. crazy. low. U can’t know my low unless you been there, then maybe you could read my stare. Stuck all Alone, that’s my reality. Welcome to my low. There ain’t no children here. There ain’t rope to climb or road to take. Nothing could save me from my fate. Death ain’t gonna hold up for any man, One day he gonna come and take me by the hand I hope that gonna be the end of my Low.
Even On The Inside Even in the inside I’m me, On the outside I’m Black, But who are you to judge me of what I do, I always thought when I pray to God at night, that he’s going to take my word and make everything right, who cares if the next man is White he’s still my brother, God put us on the earth to protect each other, my mom always told me to love one another no matter what they have done, We must come together and make a bond, and I admit to what I had done, not this time but in the past, because I’m first and never last.
Phone I am a Phone more like a pay phone I am blue and only can make 15 minute calls I am different from the phones on the outside because they can call whoever they feel like calling whenever they want to. While phones on the outside hear all kinds of people in the world like police, firemen, kids and doctors talking on them I only hear young kids incarcerated talking to their family about old memories when they was out as the phones on the outside see all types of people wearing all kinds of clothes of all colors I only see blue shirts and gray pants. as I sit on the pod, I see Muhammad walking up to use me I wonder who he’s about to call and what they’re about talk about I think he’s gonna call his brother to see what’s up with him. Then he picks me up I smell the scent of pizza, so I’m guessing he just ate lunch. He calls his brother just like I thought. Now I hear their conversation they sound excited to talk to each other then I say, “You have one minute remaining.” it feels like they been on the phone only 2 minutes but 15 minutes have passed and I said, “Call has ended” then I watched Muhammad walk away. Muhammad
Too Important To Fail Life is too important to fail so I changed my whole demeanor. I changed the way I think I know it’s the only way I won’t fail. I had fallen off track when I was 8 or 9 I’ve always had those flashbacks in my head from when my mom passed away. I started living life as if I had no one I lived for as if it was me against the world. School became a major problem; it wasn’t the work that bothered me, it was my peers. Growing up as a kid I was surrounded by kids who had no respect, no type of book smarts nor common sense. Not saying this as if I was a perfect kid because I wasn’t. Guess I could say I was always mature and serious. Even though I was a kid I would say I had a lot of wisdom. I had my moments when I flipped out. There used to be a time when I was weak-minded, fighting people because they said something disrespectful. I used to take everything personal and that led to me having poor peer relations. I used to fight people because they said some disrespectful jokes about my mother. I learned to ignore people because they are going to say what they want. Some people do things because they think the next person might be weaker or immature. I always try to positively influence the newer generation and encourage them I want everyone to live a happy life together as a whole. I want loyalty and unity in the next generation because my generation is messed up. People don’t want to be educated, people don’t take responsibility, people make a big deal out of the things that should be ignored.
Artist I am a creative little artist, who has more to tell than just what’s crawling on the paper. I wonder why this big space above us is blue, how those white fluffy lumps float up there. I hear cries of help from the person within all, and rejection that’s given to them. I see this huge dream I call my future just crack and pieces of the past float with the wind. I want a cure for every physical; emotional; mental disease that finds it’s way to us. I am a creative little artist, who has more to tell than just what’s crawling on the paper. I pretend my past hasn’t put me through so much I thought I couldn’t even handle. I feel that I sometimes act like nothing’s even wrong when everything’s wrong. I touch fluffy white lumps we call clouds and let them release thunder and rain they let build up. I worry what will happen when my parents die. I cry to empty my heart from holding in all the unnecessary feelings life has caused me. I am a creative little artist, who has more to tell than just what’s crawling on the paper. I understand that people say no without a reason, and that my faith is tested. I say that only time will tell, which is a virtue that involves patience like a hunter. I dream of being loved and never being a victim of betrayal from a trusted one. I try to ignore the negative but it always comes around to break me again. I hope that the future is better like the past, and not corrupt like the present. I am a creative little artist, who has more to tell than just what’s crawling on my paper. 22
April L. 48
It’s All In My Head Sometimes I hear the gods call my name Hovering over me while my head is stuck in shame Feeling so depressed within But then they laugh at me and say Sloth is a Deadly Sin The darkness crept into my life and refused to leave A curse of fatality became the tattooed sleeve on the ultimate canvas On my bed crying out the blood of my soul onto my white sheet I came to realize death was wished upon me I’m dying I’m giving up I’m….giving in “Go away!” I said again I find myself battling with the part of me that has been characterized to survive in the wild! I’m scared No one could ever know….. It’s all in your head It’s all in my head My sorrow My sadness My flaw…. me
Nakiesha K. 23
Family History History seems to repeat itself. At least that’s what my Grampa says. I’m falling straight into my parents footsteps. Felon, Dropout, drugs, and lies. Tell me when the cycle ends. Do I put a stop to it? Does it ever end?
LOVE & FAMILY Untitled When people say they won’t fall in love What they’re really saying is I’m scared of being hurt of being abandoned of becoming my parents who one moment look like they’re perfect kissing, holding each other close singing songs of love like two love birds then fighting like a couple of bitter fish slowly killing each other with the poison they call love. But stop me please I can’t say it’s poison Neither can I say it’s love. All I can say is I’m scared of all the above.
Spices we are the words we are the rhythm we’re the flavor we are the spices we give vibration to the land we represent all the generating life force we are the language we speak different from others
Taveon W. 24
Let It Out My daddy left this world when I was 2 yrs old, too young to really feel it but it hurt my soul My heart cold, getting older I don’t wanna speak. I’ll be hard if it kill me, I can’t be weak Never really had a dream, 8 yrs old, bad as hell, wit’ a head of steam. So mad at the world and don’t know why. Demons on me, barely started life but wanna die. I had a sister I ain’t really know, I went and got locked up before she was 3 months old. I could see her on a visit, hear her on the phone. Life incarcerated really starting 2 take a toll Taking serious the things that haunt a man’s brain, same man wit’ nobody that could help explain all the stuff floating ‘round up inside his head. No guidance, all alone, and left for dead-Weed was how I made it through. I ain’t want no feelings so this is what I would do; buy a dub, break it down and roll it up, Spark my lighter, flame up ‘til I’m high enough— wit’ alcohol in my blood to suppress my pain. Got a criminal career now police know my name. Mistakes made that stay wit’ me, even today. Back to fifteen and had a baby on the way. Had sex but I never really loved a girl. Grabbed a gun and started robbing just to hurt the world-‘cause the world hurt me or can’t you see? On the verge of manhood wit’ no identity. Mama loves and she strong but try to understand her dilemma ‘cause it take a man to raise a man. That’s why we argued late nights I’m coming in the house, both our eyes red and Mimi almost put me out; A couple times I never got it ‘til it’s too late, ‘til I had 21 sitting on a plate in front of me now I’m fighting for my very life Fighting wit’ myself tryna go and do what’s right. 2 sides, one light one in the dark. Constant war waging deep within my heart. All the pain and the anger got to let it out. ‘Cause these are the things I could do without.
Your Face Is Beautiful Your face is beautiful when I look into your eyes you make me want to cry. You always told me in life to avoid trouble and that people may try to bring me down. That I would make it somewhere but now that you’re gone I will still make it somewhere It’s all about love. Love you, RIP Grandmother Vontrell Love and Hate
Him Or Me
Red like the lingerie lipstick Of a single mother working the corner. Like the sores of sweat factory children Working to supply their needs as they supply our wants. Red like the reflection in my eyes, Of the blood tainted street On the police tape knitted, Like the fire reignited in me Like the stains on my victim’s clothes, Like the color of the water splashing against my skin. A constant reminder of the fulfillment of my desire Haunting me in my dreams. Red like a beautiful rose, Whose thorns will make you bleed Like our fragile hearts, Pumping to the end. Whether broken by words or some other way, Red like how could the color of love be the same color of hate?
Tell the judge I couldn’t budge, it was him or me. Dude carry straps so that’s what it’s gonna be. Might do sum time in a penitentiary but I had to shoot to live, it was him or me. Stuff getting sold. Money getting spent. Somebody come short. Threats getting sent. Foe Five get pulled, no joke. Barrel right in my face, lump in my throat. Heartbeat speed up, time get slow. Run that or get shot, damn I can’t go. Hand already sitting on the pistol. Only one option pull it out and blow. Only one chance my eyes get low, Got to make it out alive, can’t get smoked. Never been a murder vic, pray to God I won’t. To save my own life, had to let it go. Tell my people sorry, tell my lawyer cop a plea. Tell the judge I couldn’t budge, no cemetery I did what I did I just want them to see, that I had to shoot to live It was him or me.
Angel P. 26
Feelings I Get Love! You are what I need to keep my head above water. Love! You are so beautiful I’d be blindfolded and still see you Love! You will always be and without you I wouldn’t have these great feelings. I feel you’re the flesh of my soul I feel you’re the ruler of my kingdom I feel you’re the water to my valley I feel that without your love I would have no feelings that’s why I feel you’re my life jacket In millions of feet of water You! My love and my mother!
Fatboy Fatboy have dreads Fatboy get called Fatboy all day but Fatboy don’t like that, Fatboy don’t know how he is fat because he run around all day but he loves to eat Fatboy is not a lame he have friends but Fatboy is just fat, Fatboy don’t want to be fat but he don’t want to be skinny Fatboy wants to be the boss Fatboy wants all the money he can get he wants to be king Fatboy have girls too, but he need more Fatboy is just fat, boy.
Love you are what I think of when I think about love. You’re beautiful, you are sweet, you are what I need to stay strong and stay focused. As long as I know you, you will always be by my side no matter what I know I will always be protected. When I’m down you help me up
you’re my step stool so I would make it to the top without any confusion or misleading that’s why no matter what I go through I always think and remember how much you gave me your love to the best of your ability. That’s why you will always be what I think of when I think about love.
Mashari A Habit Never Lost See look, I haven’t written a poem in so long I may have forgotten how unless, like riding a bike or loving you it may be a habit that, once acquired is never lost. My girl says I’m foolish of course she loves me. But being loved, of course, Is not the same thing as being loved, despite. If you love me why do I feel so lonely? And why do I always wake up alone?
Mashari Love Letter this is that love letter for the girl I love the most kissing, hugging each other for 8 months straight we went so far
that we imagined having a baby together soft lips, soft hands, long curly hair is the girl that send me love letters this whole year that I been locked up in this lonely unloving room you told me that you will never leave my side but now that I been locked up in this hole I don’t get your love letters no more love letter supposed to be the truth but I hope you are happy with your new love.
Let You Flow I see you hiding in my eyes I tell you I’m fine but that’s a lie I want to try...push these feelings outside Why can’t I cry...I feel lonely inside How long can I hold you until I react The pressure’s so strong it’s pushing me back I feel stuck in this emotional trap. You disappeared once I smoked This lump in my throat makes me choke Continue to smoke so you don’t provoke.
Why are you part of me? And why won’t you go away? I try to hide from you hoping that you’ll come another day But you’re making clear to me that you’re here to stay I feel like I hate you and everything that you bring I can’t think sleep or focus on a thing you Sit inside me until I can let go, no one’s around I’m all alone so let’s go Let these tears flow
I’m Loving and Caring I am a loving and caring person I wonder who notices my sympathy. I hear negative thoughts and it doesn’t change me I touch the Lord and ask him for help. I worry about all the years I’m facing and where I will end up. I cry because my homies died and I couldn’t do anything about it. I am a loving and caring person. I understand why people make others miserable. I say that they just want some company. I dream the world would become a better place. I try to give the world a lot of nursing. I am a loving and caring person.
Thinking I sit here thinking. I’m thinking of me. What will I be? Who will I meet? What does the future hold for me? Will my brother & sisters always look up to me? Will my choices in life help me succeed? Or will I get caught up grindin’ and hustling out in the streets? I wonder when’s the day death will decide to creep up on me? Where will I be? Until then I will live my life making it comfortable. I just pray that the lord is watching and guiding me.
Grandma’s Garden Next door to my house is my Grandma and her big rectangular colorful garden We get dirty while picking the fruits and vegetables Dirty food Dirty hands Tastes fresh Tastes good So we clean our hands and our food So we can use them to prepare a picnic After, we can play around We go in the house Cut up the food prepare dinner and sit around discussing our day.
I Am My Mother’s Son I Am My Mother’s Son I wonder if I’ll still be alive by the age of 19 I hear my friends telling me not to go down the same death road that they have been through I see bodies dropping everyday I want to live 100 years so my son can have a future I Am My Mother’s Son I pretend that I’m free from jail I feel the death angels watching me I touch the sky I worry about nothing I cry about stuff I Am My Mother’s Son I understand that death isn’t an option I say I’m a gift that My Mother had I dream about being free like the wind I try to stay out of trouble I hope I live forever I Am My Mother’s Son
Hope -Dedicated to Brenda, who I haven’t told I wanted to let go.
Two angels fallin’ from heaven, Both used and abused Both tricked and divided Wandering around, Lost in the burning flames of hell Hoping to find a way out because they know, There’s more to life than pain and misery. Because at night they dream, Not regular dreams, but dreams so real That even life compared to them seemed fake Dreams of a distant place filled with love, joy and hope, Hope of waking up tomorrow without hearing news that will cause their hearts to break and fill their lives with sorrow. Both angels agree that they must get away, From the unexpected deaths and usual lies But when the time comes, One angel says, “This is all I truly know, I can’t let it go.” Without hesitation, the other angel walks away, Because in his head he knows if he stays that he will die So he’d rather walk alone and search for something that might not exist, then stay and die a miserable death. So he’s willing to dessert all he has, Maybe because he wants more Maybe because one day he woke up, Looked at what he had and discovered he truly had nothing Except for hope.
Lake Michigan I took a girl to the lakefront (Lake Michigan) along with us came my pit bull (Killer) Killer put fear in most people who he came in contact with except Daria. Daria was black and beautiful! With a backside shaped like an apple. While at the lakefront, I explained to Daria our sun, moon and the stars. I told her things like the sun was 93,000,000 miles away and light from the sun takes 8 minutes to reach the Earth traveling at 186,000 miles per second and how darkness was not real, that when it was dark it just means we are in the shadow of the Earth. I went on to tell her about the moon and how the moon did not create light, that what we saw now is a mere reflection of the sunâ€™s light (energy) I explained to her where Lake Michigan came from, but she did not believe Lake Michigan was not always made up of water, that between 10-15,000 years ago it was one large mass of ice commonly known as a glacier. She went on to comment on how beautiful Chicagoâ€™s downtown skyline is and I told her that I have traveled all over the world and that no other city even comes close to its beauty. She likes my mind, so you know what came next?
Love Love may come and love may go, but loving you is what I want to show. You’re the most precious jewel of God’s creation, a source of my thoughts and my inspiration. This life that I live will never last forever. I will truly remember all the moments we spent together. If there is one thing that I want to cherish it is for my love to stay eternal even with all this publicity and all this fame. The time that I spent away from you has set us apart but deep down inside we believe that we’re attached at heart. You always think that I will forget about you but how would it happen when everything I do is thinking about holding you in my arms everyday and every night because according to my heart that’s the only thing that’s right. The time has come for me to say good-bye, maybe I would take a couple of seconds to calm myself and cry not because I realized that our relationship is dangling on a string but because I realized that without you I’m nothing. So now I want to say good-bye And I might just die. Tavaris B.
Most Days most days it’s like my life is slipping away ‘cause I’m in this place because of this case everyday my mother cry her eyes out like she been mased most days I wake up mad shake my head like how did I get in this mess? I shouldn’t been hanging with them dudes I was with Eric V.
Dog Days Days go by as I hope for change but more often than ever it all stays the same the routine so common breakfast, gym, showers I’m used to waking up 2 the scent of sunflowers I miss my freedom and I hate being locked up but I guess it’s better
DREAMS & FREEDOM than being shot up I hate how they treat me a “so-called criminal’’ these dreams that I have are the messages subliminal? inside I have this feeling that I’ll be back joining my family until then I guess I’ll have to cope with my insanity apparently they say if he can do it why can’t I? well I’m not with this jail s*** so why should I try I’m tired of living my days with a label of someone I’m not As I’m a Dalmatian but not born with any spots so it shocks me everyday how I ended in this facility everyday I wake I feel like this stuff is killing me mentally and physically But you got to stay strong Take ownership for anything you did wrong Bong! Ping! I need to wake up from this dream. But oh wait, I forgot This is reality, now it seems So let me be a big boy and tie my shoestrings cuz in my very big future this is just a small thing 36
Justin B. 48
Big Dreams I’m Chasing And I say, Man, ain’t it crazy That a paper with a number Can turn these people shady? But Lord save me, I swear I ain’t lazy I know I sleep a lot, but it’s big dreams I’m chasing Kind of hard to maintain, But, I got to pray that I make it Though messing with these people Man I swear this stuff is crazy Because people see I’m falling, and they just can’t believe it I’m looking at myself like I can’t believe it either Ah, man ‘Cause I respect my sister and mother So when they go though pain I’m the one who also suffers But I’m the one who makes them suffer With all my bad decisions I hope that I can make it and they make it with me aahh Life isn’t an easy thing But smoking dro and selling dope ain’t doing the right thing Got to love my mother ‘cause she kept this family tight Even through the bad times she hustle through the night And I got to show respect, ‘cause she brought in all those checks Kept the fridge always stacked, never went though the night without a snack Just thinking about the life she gave up On the bus with twin girls, I know her life was super rough But I just got to pray that I can change my ways, and I can make a way Lord, just make a path and help me guide though the way And make them demons stay away That’s just ambition, haters spitting words at me That’s just my ammunition I keep having these bad dreams Is that a sign you giving me? To stay away from people I’m with ‘Cause it’s slowly killing me
The Cries of the Innocent run this town, no dream but they act like puppets, no string and they all can see they control everything, one scheme one pilot, multiple planes they already made one crash, no shame so bold but didn’t explain why we mostly starve this is an exhibition game the real game starts when the silent war ends after the war with ourselves hard to believe but this is hell no matter how much fun you have soon you can’t bail from things so farfetched I wish I could tell you a place worse than jail but it wouldn’t be a place more like a state of mind that’s in darkness but you all still smile ready to get 10+ years and after he slams his gavel now you wanna tear that would never be me, here let me explain first of all I already cried a thousand tears, no shame cuz I’m the only person in this situation to blame even though I didn’t do it and wow that’s a shame the judge even knows I didn’t do it but I got through it, the evidence been came but it wasn’t against me, now who’s to blame? I leave everything to God, soon he’ll explain why me and loved ones went through so much pain
Pain The longer I sit, the more pain I feel it feels like my life going down a hill court day after court day they say I attempted to kill but I didn’t do it it wasn’t me I’m just waiting on that day I’ll be free if I have faith in God he’ll bless me and like an ocean this poem is finna get deep all them long days I spent in the streets now I’m in jail waiting to be free wearing blue from head to feet I just want the judge to see that this isn’t me I dream that I go home and rest my feet 38
then walk around outside screaming I’m FREE But I wake up in white sheets then look at my pants and see JTDC
Why I Cry I cry because so many thoughts go through my mind. I cry when I feel that I have been mistreated I cry so that someone could come and comfort me I cry so that things could go my way I cry when I feel that everything’s over I cry when I think about what I should have done instead of doing time I cry for my family and the way they are struggling I cry for a second chance so that I could be something I cry when I think about when would I see my family again I cry because I have not found myself I cry for the family who lost a loved one I cry for not going with my first mind, the right one I cry because bricks surround me I cry because I am in a box I cry because I am not free
Sharee M .
Regret I have given up every single thing I own It feels as if my pain has overgrown Why do I have to be so alone? Deeply depressed and full of sorrow It feels like I won’t live to see tomorrow Fun was the name of the gun And I shot myself out of a life It cost me the night I took action I use my power for evil I’m giving up on all my people Dear Lord show me a sign Show me what I can do with the time My tears have made my bed Regret is written all in my head Scared for what my future may bring Every time I think of the bad, I scream Waiting to reveal my last hope My life is my everything.
I Wonder I’m sitting all caged in, Trying to forgive my sin, But I know I put myself in this position. I can cry and beg to go home, I hate being here, I hate being alone. I wonder when my life will change, I wonder when I’ll put a different picture in the frame. I don’t understand why I don’t feel pain, Or why they keep giving me medicine saying I’m insane. I’m a kid who went down the wrong path, like many others, A kid who gets angry and releases it in violence. My life hasn’t been very easy or nice, I raised myself, didn’t know what was right.
Free Mind You clipped my wings so I could not fly, Since birth you told me this metal cage is my home. You’d tell me what you wanted and I would actually need it, You held me when you felt like it Ignored me when I pleaded Then to top it off, Your help was like a Trojan horse. But it’s okay, By clipping my wings You let me grow. By locking me away, You gave me desire to see the world. By not teaching me what I needed I learned to teach myself. By ignoring me when I pleaded, You helped me to grow. By selling me a dream, You showed me reality. Yes, this bird has used every stone you tossed To build a bridge to walk across onto his own desired path. And one day this bird will fly, Like an eagle this bird will soar He will touch the stars and travel the world, Until it is time for this bird to die And even once dead, This bird will fly Or plant a seed on another bird’s head, And teach that bird what it means to fly.
Sometimes I wonder when I will succeed, Sometimes I wonder why I don’t get the love that I need. I hate putting myself through all this, I’m sick and tired of all this craziness. My family disowned me and lost my trust, It’s like everything I ever had, I turned it all to dust. I wonder why I can’t be perfect, I wonder why I feel alone in a world of a million. I wonder why I can’t get out the system, But I realized living my life is worth it. I will change and grow for the better, And at this point…It’s now or never. I wonder when, I’ll be the real me again…
Words of Encouragement This poem is for my Black and Latino brothers. For the kids that said, “F*** you” and disrespect their own mothers. My words of encouragement go out to the little girls that got pregnant and had to serve their life as teen mothers. This is for the ones that were victims of some type of crime. For the ones who didn’t know how to get through life because they were mentally blind. This is for the little girls that be double-dutching on the block. For the kids who got picked on and felt like they had to pick up a Glock. My words of encouragement go out to the ones who never knew how to love. For the ones who needed discipline but never picked up the gloves. This is for the kids that didn’t believe in themselves. For the kids that got sick or was born with bad health. This is for the kids that had no father in their lives. For the parents that couldn’t pay the bills so they had to live without light. This is for the kids that was going somewhere in life, but drop out of school because the bullying didn’t stop. For the ones who felt like they wasn’t good enough to get an education so they had to pick up a mop. For the kids that fell in the hands of a mad man so they had to post up on the block. Stay away from this madness and stay away from the violence. These streets are grimy and full of snakes. People say they’re real, but they’re really fake. So listen to my words of encouragement and be cautious of your environment.
Forgiving and Forgetting Life consists of choices We can choose to forgive See the good in people Or We can choose to hold grudges See nothing but bad in people This will get us nowhere in life Until We open our eyes and see how big the world is The more we judge, hold grudges The shorter time we have to explore the world. Start forgiving and forget holding grudges They just waste time.
Where I’m From violence means at night you hear crack heads fighting over drugs where I’m from on your way to school you see broken bottles, needles and thugs where I’m from you see people stealing Nintendo, dumb kids shooting dice, lose their life off a 10-4 where I’m from you see fights and guns firing then someone gets arrested though you hear police sirens where I’m from there are dirty cops and everyday you’re outside you have a chance of getting shot ‘cause of violence
Thoughts I had this dream where I see myself falling out of the sky. Below me was a lake full of blood. And I can hear angels and demons say “eye for and eye”. I awoke in a cold sweat thinking that it was my time to die. As I was in this horrifying moment, My life flashed right before my eyes. Thoughts of my friends and family. Thoughts of people behind bars. Thoughts of kids being shot. And thoughts of dope fiends looking for rocks. Thoughts of the faith of my life in the hands of the system. Thoughts of being misunderstood. Thoughts of being in handcuffs. Thoughts of getting too many years. And thoughts of the state’s attorney trying to fill my life with fear. Thoughts of me being my own worst enemy. Thoughts of me being chased and shot. Thoughts of being intoxicated with drugs. And thoughts of what my life would be if I never leave the hood. I sit in my cell every night with thoughts full of pain. Thoughts of me being a criminal and bringing my family too much shame. Thoughts of me being treated like an animal behind a dirty cage. How can they break something that’s unbreakable? My faith, my freedom, my soul. It’s un-take-able. Thoughts of someone crushing my spirit. Thoughts of me mentally dying. Thoughts of me not having my thoughts. Because if I lose my thoughts I’ll be lost in the system, wilting.
Violence To Me Is Like Getting Stung By A Bee you know it’s gonna sting violence is always a bad thing like a phone it’s gonna ring like a doorbell goes ding like Mariah she gonna sing like a kid he gonna dream sippin’ syrup you gonna lean like the Heat they got a team like a laser it’s gonna beam like sour it’s gonna cream got the dope, you got the fiend like the store got the jeans Bill Gates he got the green like an iron it got the steam like Charlie he got the Sheen Like a song it got the theme violence, violence whatcha mean violence is a bad thing violence, Martin Luther King now that’s what violence means
A Bad Day Fighting to survive this day Just waiting for it to go away Sometimes it’s hard to look for the good in this pile of dismay The stress is bottled up inside of me Just hoping I will let it break free. But I can’t and I won’t let it take control of me This is my life I refuse to let it be taken from me I crush this stress in the palm of my hand And it drops to the floor like a pile of sand I look at it and say to myself how will I make it through this life If everyday is full of constant strife Hoping for everything to be better I drift off into a daydream full of adventure Where everything goes my own way And there is no such thing as a bad day.
Running We run like the police are right behind us. We run like dogs are about to bite us We run like cars are chasing but aren’t going to catch us. We run like a gang of dudes are chasing us and are trying to kill us. We run like gunshots traveling before they hit their target. We run like we are chasing after the money like there is none left We run like these crooked judges are taking our freedom. I run from the guidance people trying to help me with. I ran from the girl I love ‘cause I don’t want to love. I run to the streets ‘cause they never end. I run like fire burning with gas, but it’s too fast. We all run like the wind when a tornado comes. We run like the light that flashes when it rains. We run and run and keep up with our shadows. We run because we don’t want to die like this. We run like a shark trying to catch a fish. We run like our freedom is in danger. We run just to be safe. We run just because we run. We run like goons. We run like cheetahs trying to catch their prey. We run because we live for the dream. We run because we don’t know what this means. We run like soldiers trying to win the war. We run like we don’t want to be locked up anymore. We run like freedom is a problem. We run like doing right isn’t what’s happening. So why run at all if it’s all a joke? Well, I just run like I’m about to choke I run like a baby trying to speak words. I run like I don’t know what to do anymore. I run like I want to give up. I run like I’m out of breath.
I Wanna Be Alive and Free Dead or Locked Up When I grow up I wanna be alive and free, Not dead or locked up like they want me to be. I wanna be real and I wanna be a man I wanna be somewhere chilling without no gun in my hand I wanna hold down my family maybe with a woman by my side I want a couple of real friends, the true homies ‘til the end I wanna live somewhere warm, spending winter outdoors I wanna change the world and don’t let no liquor change me I wanna wake up to beautiful ladies everywhere I could see I don’t wanna really see nobody, just chill alone in the cut Mess around and be a Rasta with dreads hanging to my butt I think Imma hit the lotto, with a lil good luck But I just wanna see some stars in the sky every time I look up I wanna talk with my God above so he can hear me when I pray I wanna kick back and just relax at the end of everyday When I grow up I wanna be alive and free Not dead or locked up, like they want me to be.
I Was Born I was born ten years ago I was born on a hot sunny day in the park I was born on a Tuesday Wearing all black Looking like a devil I was born to run Fast like the wind And never stop Until I reached the top I was born free In the wild
Take Me Away From Harm and Shame Take me away from all the harm and shame and take away my tears that come when I think about all these years. Make sure that I make it so that I can achieve something and finally give my Grandma what she wanted. If I would have thought about what I was getting myself into I would have never gone down to that dark place knowing that it would lead me to the most unexpected thing. Looking into that manâ€™s eyes I knew that I saw fear I had a flashback on all my good moments and my bad ones. Knowing that what I was about to do would take me away from my family and my lady and take away my career which was to be the best ball player that I could be and never have to face jail and watch as all my family abandons me and donâ€™t care whether I live or die in this jail cell. Donâ€™t get me wrong, juvenile jail is not too bad But I have to face reality and know that I have a chance to live in a big jail. But I will never give up Knowing that I would get a chance to get free by the grace of God.
I Was Born I was born in 1997 I was born on a Saturday my mom exhausted to have a new child I was born into the lifestyle on 93rd and Dobson the mindset of trying to get rich and the attitude that I canâ€™t be touched I was born free ignorant to the way of the world around me going through life without a care with my head in the sky and my feet on the ground I was reborn into the Cook County criminal system DC number 227058 No say in what I eat, do, or where I go Born into brick walls and steel doors lame staff, lame residents, and lame people all around continuing court dates and fear of the next pit stop in the criminal system I was born intoxicated not knowing the reason why, just knowing the effects spending my earnings and savings on drugs everyday walking around like a zombie, feeling like a millionaire
Like A Bird In the Sky Like a bird in the sky I wish I could fly. Away I would go from all the pains & worries in life. Like a bird in the sky I wish I was Free. Free to go anywhere & everywhere I please. Like a bird in the sky Lord watch over me. Accept me for who I am. Like a bird in the sky I wouldn’t be a burden to anyone’s life. Like a bird in the sky Watch me as I pass by. Seen by many, high in the sky. Having people wishing they were as free as I.
Violence Is When People Start Dying mothers, brothers, sisters crying when out in the ghetto bullets flying when kids giving up without even trying at home you can’t sleep people starving can’t eat when homies get into it they calling it beef hear gunshots at night now people can’t sleep violence is when we can’t get along when people is stealing and breaking in homes nowhere else to go little kids roam when teenagers die ‘cause they fighting over phones I wish it could stop and get all reunited I can’t even think without thinking about violence growing up is tough so we all need peace and a moment of silence
page 2 / Jonathan T. page 4, 5 / Rah page 6, 7 / April L. page 9 / Jesus F. page 11, 12 / Anonymous page 14, 15 / Chrystina page 16 A / Andrew page 16 B / Destiny O. page 17 / Ricky M. page 18 / Walter M. page 20 / T.W. page 22 / Jariel V. page 23 / Jasma L. page 24 / Kadejah page 26, 27 / Kierra J. page 28 / Jesus page 30 A / Ricky M. page 30 B / Saul Z. page 30 C / Ronisha T. page 31 / Jesus F. page 32 / Jeremiah G. page 35 / Mohammad W. page 36 / Jannet page 38, 39 / Kermina H. page 40, 41 / Walter M. page 42 / Tiara M. page 43 / Seville M. page 44 / Meisha S. page 46 / Saul Z. Recordings of the poet reading this poem can be found at www.Soundcloud.com/Free-Write-Jail-Arts A Free Write Jail Arts & Literacy Program Publication - FreeWriteJailArts.Org
A Free Write Jail Arts & Literacy Program Publication FreeWriteJailArts.Org
Big Dreams I'm Chasing is a collection of visual art and creative writing by Free Write students detained at the Cook County Juvenile Tempor...
Published on Mar 1, 2013
Big Dreams I'm Chasing is a collection of visual art and creative writing by Free Write students detained at the Cook County Juvenile Tempor...