From Locked Up to Freedom with Flowers and Poems

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FromLockedUptoFreedom withFlowersandPoems

Original poetry by Joseph Green, John Smith, Pernell

Fults, Dillan Matthews and Jonathon Thompson

Cover designs by Pernell Fults

"The cover came from everybody in the class getting together and agreeing what should be on it. By putting our heads together, we agreed that it should have a lot of flowers and of course all American ginseng. I took it upon myself to add the owl because I love them so much.

The chain came from being locked up here at the jail on one end but the other end in this class we turn into the bird and fly off free."

Statement from artist Pernell Fults on his process designing the cover of this anthology.


Joseph Green was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee but has been in Grundy County, Tennessee for approximately twenty-six years. He has always been interested in mechanics, and started to learn since childhood. Mechanics run in his family, so fixing cars has always been his focus. Joseph was introduced to small mechanics at just ten years old. Joseph is very talented with mechanics, and is able to fix anything. Joseph’s friends believe he has smart and good characteristics. His poetry teachers agree.

When I was born, I died from a high fever.

Soon after, I turned two and I died again from another high fever. I was really sick with ear infections until I was five years old. I never spoke, and was unable to hear. After I got hearing aids, it took me three years to learn how to speak with sign language and reading lips. I have told myself I will lose more hearing in the future–that’s my fear. I have told myself I want to be a good person for the rest of my life.

I used to love hotwheels and playing games when I was seven years old. My biggest fear was the boogie man under the bed.

The year after that, I started working on small engines. By the time I was a teenager, I went to church and got saved by grace. I have a good heart and help people when they need it. Fear God? Yes I do.

My parents taught me to be a good person and mechanic, especially on my dad’s side. Some history about my family was secret. I told myself I wanted to know more about my family history but will in the future.

In adulthood, I wanted to go to technical school for mechanics, then graduate from college. I told myself I can be what I want to be.

My fear is now being incarcerated in my adulthood. Maybe I can learn to write in the poetry class here. I told myself I need to learn to be patient in learning lots of things while I’m incarcerated.

This is a short story of my life.

Joseph Green

Outside, I would like to work on cars To focus on things, on the engine. To listen to engine sounds, to find the engine problems, repair it and test it. Give it to customers and be happy.

I’m thankful for my life

When I was born

My mom and I was dead

Then when I was two

I was dead for a second time From a high fever.

I’m thankful God gave me more life Today, I still live Christ-like.


I was born in Sewanee, Tennessee, but grew up in South Pittsburg. I’m a self-taught tree trimmer, and really enjoy the hard work. I value my family above everything else in life. I’m passionate about mason work. I would like to be able to work on motorcycles. My favorite type of art is anything to do with outdoors and wildlife. I’m not really good at drawing, but what I can draw I take pleasure in.


As I walk through this flat, Looking to find this plant, I walk over these rocks

Some big and some small Walking ever so carefully As not to fall.

When I stop to look around, Looking especially to the ground. Watching closely for snakes and a bee And for whatever that I may see. When I find this plant I light up with joy That I can buy my kids a new toy.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss y’all

From the first born unto the last

The birthdays in winter, summer and the fall

Oh how I wish I could change the past

I know the pain I’ve caused y’all I can’t take back

As I sit here and think about it today

All I can do is make a promise and a pact

That no matter what we all go through it will be ok

And since I’ve gotta go away

I ask for all of y’all to be strong

Try to live life to the fullest and find a better way

And just maybe dear ole Dad won’t be gone too long.

I am from family reunions, from sweet tea and pecan pie.

I am from the garden in the backyard, tomatoes and peppers ripe on the vine.

I am from irises and lilies that just look so pretty

I am from fish frys and all night parties, from Smith’s and Hoebacks

I am from the brick masons and the carpenters

From the early bird gets the worm, and a man is only as good as his word.

I am from James H. Smith, digging ginseng out of the mountains. I am from Sewanee and Battle Creek, from Daddy’s squirrel dumplings and Mama’s peanut butter fudge, from the moonshine still Dad had in the 60s and 70s and the hard times my grandmother and grandfather had raising kids during the depression.

My aunt’s bookshelf is where most of my childhood is recorded, In these pictures of me and my family are the only things that show our existence in this world.

These Walls

These walls keep closing more and more everyday

And no matter how hard I fight and push

They just won’t stay at bay.

It’s hard to contain all of this rage

Knowing they are keeping me in this cage.

Some say I deserve to be punished with a lot of time

And I agree, but just if I did the crime.

These walls are same everyday

No matter what cell I’m in

They are the same in every way.

Even though I am content where I am

I really and truly miss my fam.

Reading is how I escape these walls

I imagine being at an amazing set of waterfalls.

These walls are so drab and plain

But for people like me they are full of pain.


Hello Friends,

My name is Ronald Pernell Fults. I was born November 28, 1966 in Altamont, Tennessee. I was delivered by Doctor Byron Harbolt, who also delivered my mom and dad and all my kids.

I want people to know that I’m kind and sweet and all outgoing. My arts are important to me—I love to work with wood. I’m very passionate about it, like when I make jewelry boxes for my friends.

Building things with my hand is what I like to do, whether it be working with wood or on cars. I give it my all.

Art is important in my life because if I do it well, people will remember it and me. My favorite type of art is just drawing pictures so so can build my own picture frames to put the pictures in. I was introduced to art when I was very young by my dad. He could draw or build anything he ever wanted to. What I want to say with my artwork is “Hey everybody, look at me! Don’t you wish you had me?”

During my years, I have encountered a lot of obstacles just to learn all I know about using saws and knives and paint. But it has all been worth it. When people view my artwork, I want them to understand that it took years of hard work and practice to get where I can do it like I do now. I hope it makes someone say “I hope someday I can do it just like him.”

She’s my Pride-N-Joy

She’s the love of life

Her smile draws attention

Like a full moon at night. She makes me sing

From day to night. You would sing too, If her jeans are tight.

I fell in love

At first sight

I was drawn to her Like bugs to a light.

Pernell Fults

They will be shadows in the moonlight. Darlin’ I’ll meet you at midnight. Hand in hand we’ll go, Walking through the Milky Way.

Pernell Fults

It was wonderful, from the beginning It will be wonderful till the end. I couldn’t be no happier. I made a wife from a best friend. If you want something real stop entertaining temporary people.

Pernell Fults

Oh, you may not think I’m pretty But don’t judge what you see I’ll eat myself if you can find A smarter hat than me.

You can keep your bowlers black Your top hats, sleek and tall.

From I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat And I can cap them all. There’s nothing hidden in your head The Sorting Hat can’t see So try me on and I will tell you Where you ought to be.

Pernell Fults

Hello Blacksheep,

This is the older you saying: slow down, play fair, and have some fun with your wife and kids. The friends you have are not really friends, they are people who are using you to get what they want and need. Stop the drugs now, and you will really get ahead–you will have more than you could ever dream that you would ever have. Work with Cody now, hard, because he becomes just like you. Teach him to do better now or he will only see the inside of jails for a long time, like you have.

Don’t fear losing the woman you love ‘cause she’ll love you till she dies and even though you do divorce her, you get another that is beautiful and you love her just as much as you do this one.

When you move to Myers Town with this one, get in the Bible and never mess up and you will have all you ever want.

P.S. your honeymoon is going to be in the Smokies— take extra money and never come back.

Blacksheep, you’re good at reading instructions.

Please read these twice and follow.

Pernell Fults

My name is Dillan Matthews. I’m 28 years old, and I’m from Sparta, Tennessee. I like to read a lot of books and I like music. I like to learn new stuff, and I’d like to go to college and learn drone tech. The big obstacle is trying to stay clean and out of jail. Poetry is important to me cause I feel their words sometimes; I was introduced to poetry in high school. I want to say learn more stuff within yourself you can do it. I want people to understand that it doesn’t matter what you say as long as it comes from your heart.

Letter to my Younger Self

When I was sixteen years old, I told myself to pay attention to school, to stay in school rather than skip. I told myself not to stay out late with my older friends or use drugs with them.

When I was seventeen, I told myself to never use meth or Suboxone. I told myself that I would endure in my upcoming years.

Eighteen years old, I told myself to please stop using meth. I warned myself to never steal my uncle’s gun–never been on the run, for the years lose the most valued time.

Twenty-one years, I darn sure told myself to leave them women alone and never shoot up. Get a real job instead of selling meth.

At twenty-two, I told myself to do right, stay at home, that if I did, I wouldn’t have done two years in jail so far and be ready for a long road ahead.

From twenty-three to twenty-five, I asked myself, “ain’t this shit getting old? Going to jail and all this heroin killing people around you. But you think you’re something ‘cause of who you know.”

Twenty-six through twenty-seven, I told myself to never snort a line of H in the drivethru of that store and die.

How depressed you will be, all the years of overdosing on your sister ‘cause a female pissed you off? You junk out because you don’t listen to the people who care about you–you’re too far gone to care about your family or kids. You get high, and wonder why no one wants to be around you or let you around your kids. You’re going to overdose no less than 4 times a month. How sick you will be everyday, with all the money you throw away?

Sin is the nature of the flesh


our soul is the nature of the flesh

The soul wants good, but the flesh can’t resist, as we are all spiraling into our own abyss
Dillan Matthews
I used to be wild Wild anywhere and everywhere Don’t get it twisted
Dillan Matthews

Hi, I’m Jonathon Thompson. I am from Tracy City, Tennessee. I love the art in music and in writing; it makes me free in spirit and in mind. I want you to understand in my artwork that it comes from the heart and it’s okay to relate. From having an emotional disorder and worrying what people think, to expressing the real and honest me.

Please enjoy!

Your eyes are as blue as the sky, Smile as bright as the sun. Love that makes infinity looks like so much fun. They said I was dumb. But when I met you, You said Fee Fie Foe Fum.

As the butterflies flew, The love grew like the weeds in the wild.

Roses are red, Violets are blue.

You swore you loved me, as I loved you. The more I seeked, The more you shined. Some said the blind was leading the blind. The more I feared, The more you appeared. In the end, it was just for you to disappear.

I’ll wash my hands of you Won’t even roll up my sleeves. cause it ain’t no rest for the wicked But Imma leave you in peace, I might kick some dirt on you, But you’re gon’ bury yourself.

You know that I’m crazy but nevermind it in bed. But I don’t give you good brain So you can fuck with my head. You need to do less Less drama, less fights. Just saying All I’m saying, It might save your life.

Don’t give up, cause I won’t give in. You’ve fallen down, but you will rise again. When the demon that’s inside you is ready to begin, When it feels like a battle you will never win. When you’re aching for the… and begging for your sins. When there is nothing left inside, There is still a reason to fight.

Jonathon Thompson

Dear younger Jonathon,

I just want you to know that I’m proud of you, no matter what! I remember when you went through all these phases, when nobody else seemed to care to pay attention. When you went from immaturity, from used to love getting high with so called friends. When you felt like you had to manipulate the emotion of love to survive and to feel alive. When you went from feeling so dead to thriving off the attention and adrenaline of things you knew were wrong. But, the fact that you are maturing and becoming a young man, learning from your mistakes and knowing and understanding the values in life. You’re probably wondering why I’m writing you, funny you should ask. I’m just letting you know what to expect later on. When you thought no one was listening, you get older and you realize God had always been listening, looking back remembering our thoughts.I’m just letting you know, we did make it past 18.

So, really my advice to you is to keep your head up and stay positive. That voice in your head really turned out to be God and your conscience just looking out for you. Remember that saying they always told us, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? That’s true, but a close friend of ours told me something while we were in jail (Oh yeah, by the way we’re in jail), the saying “I know times are rough, but a little pain will make you tough.” But I love you, our self-worth is more valuable than all the drugs and negative energy that was around. You will see! P.S. Just to answer them two questions you always wondered about, here is the The answer to them: Just so you know, it is reality–God is great. He blessed you with a wonderful relationship between your Mom and Pop.

w w w w . a r t s i n s i d e . o r g @ a r t s i n s i d e t n

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