Voices of Fortune - Winter 2018

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VOICES OF FORTUNE An annual publication of writing and artwork by and for the Fortune community. We are artists and writers in the community and currently incarcerated who want people with justice involvement to thrive as positive, contributing members of society. Editor


Jamie Maleszka

Alexis Pillot, Altamir, Cinthia Candelaria, Crystal Williams, Curintina Mulrain Mims, Dana F., Daniel Cotto, Darryl Rice, Darvis B., Dawn Coughlin-Busanet, Dimitious Zias, Edward B., Enrico G., Ervin “Easy” Hunt, Felix Guzman, Gregory Pierce, Hercy Ramos, Howard Harris, Hubert Harris, Hykeem “Retro” Rutledge, Ireal K. Jacobs, Jamal H., John Rufino, Kasien F.T. Thompson, Luis V., Margarita Bonet, Marlon Morisset, Mersadez Lillian George, Mic Ruiz, Miguel A., Moses “MoeMoney” Santana, Mr. R. Mason, Nalonte B., Nuridden Khabir, P. Will, Patricia Howard, Prakash C, Rean A., Robert R, Ron A., Ryan Bennett, Sahar Ismail, Shaimel Steadwell, Shamirra Malloy, Stanley Washington, Tannia Garrins, Tas P., Tiffany C

Copy Editor Amanda Roberts Cover Artwork Guy Woodard Layout Ayat Useinoski Jamie Maleszka Emerson Soto Carmen Rojas Felix Guzman Photography Ayat Useinoski


MISSION The Fortune Society’s mission is to support successful reentry from incarceration and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities. We do this by: BELIEVING in the power of individuals to change; BUILDING LIVES through service programs shaped by the needs and experience of our participants; and CHANGING MINDS through education and advocacy to promote the creation of a fair, humane, and truly rehabilitative correctional system.

OUR APPROACH Founded in 1967, The Fortune Society’s vision is to foster a world where all who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated will thrive as positive, contributing members of society. We do this through a holistic, one-stop model of service provision. Our continuum of care, informed and implemented by professionals with cultural backgrounds and life experiences similar to those of our participants, helps ensure their success. We serve over 7,000 individuals annually via three New York City locations: our service center in Long Island City, Queens, and both The Fortune Academy (“the Castle”) and Castle Gardens in West Harlem. Our program models are recognized both nationally and internationally for their quality and innovation.




Our ATI program reduces the prison and jail population, helps thousands of individuals receive holistic, supportive services, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars.

Our Education program empowers students to achieve personal and professional goals, such as acquiring basic literacy skills, earning a High School Equivalency diploma, attending college, or preparing for employment.

BENEFITS APPLICATION ASSISTANCE Our Benefits Application Assistance (Single Stop) program helps participants achieve economic mobility by coordinating access to public benefits available to individuals and families with low incomes, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Disability Insurance, and other forms of public assistance. CREATIVE ARTS Our Creative Arts program supports the educational, emotional, and cultural development of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system through creative writing, poetry, spoken word, video production, animation, visual arts, music, and theater.


EMPLOYMENT SERVICES Our Employment Services program is designed to equip job seekers with justice involvement with the skills necessary to obtain employment and thrive in the workplace. The program offers job readiness, transitional work, and sector-based skills trainings in Green Construction, Culinary Arts, Job Development, and Transportation (Commercial Drivers License acquirement). We also offer job placement assistance and retention services. FAMILY SERVICES Our Family Services program works to unite participants with their loved ones by facilitating healthy parent-

child relationships, and providing legal services for custody, visitation, and child support commitments.

buildings: The Fortune Academy (“the Castle”) and Castle Gardens, along with our Scatter-Site housing program.



We offer healthy, hot meals, and distribute fresh, locally grown produce to participants through partnerships with local farms. Through the Food and Nutrition program, we also offer cooking demonstrations and nutrition education workshops.

Fortune participants have access to a full spectrum of services through our NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH)licensed Better Living Center (BLC), which serves individuals with mental health needs and histories of justice involvement.



Our Health Services program connects individuals with justice involvement and chronic conditions to quality healthcare and social services. We also provide individuals living with HIV/AIDS with vital discharge planning, case management, health education, and connection to quality, community-based treatment and care.

Our Individualized Corrections Achievement Network (I-CAN) program provides skill-building and discharge preparation services to eligible individuals during their incarceration at NYC Department of Corrections (DOC) jails and offers continuing reentry support following their release.


Our New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS)-licensed outpatient substance use treatment clinic empowers people with substance use histories to heal and recover from addiction and the trauma of incarceration.

Our Housing program assists individuals with justice involvement and their families experiencing homelessness in building better futures through supportive and affordable housing. The program provides low-threshold access to emergency, transitional, and permanent housing in our congregate


THE DAVID ROTHENBERG CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY In honor of our founder’s tireless efforts to promote the rights and fair treatment of people with justice involvement, Fortune launched The David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) in 2007. DRCPP resources and advances our policy development, advocacy, technical assistance, training, research, and community education efforts. Additionally, it works to build an equitable and conscionable criminal justice system, change counterproductive laws and policies, and promote effective program models for people with criminal justice histories.


BUILDING PEOPLE, NOT PRISONS. VOICES OF FORTUNE is a publication rooted in the belief that each person’s experience is a unique reservoir for strength and power.

VOICE = SURVIVAL The poems that follow were written on buses, crowded trains in classrooms on lockdown on crumpled sheets of paper, in trusty journals memorized on the longest of nights found in the promise of late afternoons on the precipice of change while afraid while lost and maybe not yet found while found and absolutely ready to share as prayer, as question as apology, as oxygen as escape as reclamation as We. Are. Here. as always a way forward.


NONE OF US GOT TO WHERE WE ARE ALONE. VOICES OF FORTUNE is grateful to the writers and artists in the community and those currently incarcerated that stared down a blank page and then had the courage to share it. Your potential is blinding. We hear you. We salute you. Thank you to David Rothenberg and The Fortune Society for their bone-deep belief in the power of people to change. Thank you to the previous contributors and editors of VOICES. You lit our path forward. Thank you to John Runowicz and Willard Beale for their wholehearted support of VOICES. Thank you to Fortune’s Education Program for their continuing inspiration. Thank you to Ronald Day, the I-CAN Program, its discharge planners, liaisons and assigned correctional officers on Rikers for embracing this publication. Thank you to the Justice League: Fernando Francis and TeRoy Parker for transforming lives on the daily. Thank you to Guy Woodard for sharing his magic so others can find theirs. Thank you to Jill Poklemba, Kandra Clark and Fortune’s Development team for championing VOICES every step of the way. Thank you to Danielle Rosario for always being willing - no matter the ask. Thank you to Emerson Soto, Carmen Rojas, and Ayat Useinoski for their vision and hard work. Thank you to Amanda Roberts and Felix Guzman for lending VOICES their talents. Thank you to Jessica Hall of Prison Writes for being propelled by love in the fight for justice. Thank you, dear reader.



Hykeem ‘Retro’ Rutledge


The Release On Hold She got locked up still she was home (inside), She came home still she was locked up (inside), Guess the system must have miss something that was never truly freed, The hood is why she’s been misunderstood like a black & white tv, Pounding on it never gave it color just cleared a picture that we couldn’t see, What’s under the hood is why she stands tall after such long walks of demise, There’s a surprise disguise in her blacked out brown eyes to think you beat her enough, The beauty in that eagle has been hurt, It’s the reason why you’ll never see her ever wearing a skirt, The way her pops slapped her mom that one time didn’t teach her what was right but snatched her from what was wrong, never knowing her worth, Still... they all look alike... Being treated unjust and stiff armed out of sight might have, could have, should have worked but I bet you still see her if you blink twice, Her mind opened up doors after them people chained her, The feeling changed her, rearranged her yet they couldn’t claim her, The right to a fair trial was always a stranger, the view of a happy ending nearby was a danger, If we so happen to erase the nights of being drunk she would have never spun in the wrong direction, The walls are cold there, the cots were old but staring at the sun glare was where ape and writer became a pair, Their truth came from how dare the youth, All the while she’s letting go of thoughts, learning that to be lost was the closest to being found, I mean who’s really the boss when lock down started to be more like a distant sound, The plot thickened as the block sinks in to a pot of steamed crow served by all pros, You can’t lie it’s hella juicy thou....

Cinthia Candelaria


Luis V. 11

A Contained Cell An engine, motorized by a corrupted paper, metallic grip, shackled with distant memories, filled with I should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. But I didn’t. I’m just a name with a number I’ve committed A bus ride too, 5AM breakfast, Over capacitated with individuals 4 standing, 3 laying down, 2 puking, 1 moment, freedom, a second chance I’m standing, back against a wall Question: Are they, Blood, Crip, King I’m breathing, will I last against them all? A loud rumble, two cells down, CO’s laughing, I’m free, Now who laughs loud? 6AM yard call,


40 minutes in the rain or blizzard, A spoon drop of jelly, size of snowflakes in the winter, My voice is the storm, for every late diabetic call you never made, Drinks that taste, like piss and shit, but you call it lemonade, New raids,”C-O” it’s cereal and fruit, I got no co-mo, your response is: I can wait a new day, Stomach grumbles, Humble down, old soul You’ll be free, Free to speak, Free to yell, Free to take a shower, that never felt, Like…like…

the world is watching You call us inmates All we want is a moment of tv, 21 minutes to call my mom An hour visit, and she leaves Why my mattress got a tag, that this shouldn’t be used as a mattress Y’all receive millions of dollars And this gray pillow is my blanket Who cares how we live, Who cares how we feel, Busy uniforms, making more then hard working citizens, For a head count and 3 meals We clean the dorm, the bathroom you shit in You smile, kick back even nap As this new guy gets hit and He’s probably 60, Why cause he’s Spanish in a Blood house?

Your partner sucks and fucks the leader, And makes sure that the drugs out, WHY HAVE I BEEN QUIET FOR TOO LONG, WRITING A NEW SONG, But this rush is about to bust for every moment you abused cons Detainees, woke up at 4 for court, Bus came like 3 hours later, maybe 4 maybe 5 Pens at the court just waiting 2 cold cuts, for saved cheese No milk, water, A cell that maintains 3 times 3 people 16 to 17 waiting, 8 hours later, only one got seen But this case that I’m presenting can transform, by we

Mic Ruiz


Concrete Jungle So, somehow, yet again, I’ve managed to rip my souls comfort and security right from beneath my own feet And then found myself led by the followers, back to to where it all began for me. . . the concrete jungle I know as the streets… Where I’ve personally witnessed celebrities forfeit their integrity over the rush of “Excuse me, I normally don’t do this…but, could I suck your dick for one last blast?” Tomorrow the new, upcoming hasbeen, just a thing of the past. Where I’ve seen innocent children, whose parents and origins will perhaps forever remain unknown, become the next targeted thug, simply because they did what they were shown. The streets have helped me turn my “never’s” into “yet’s”, one by painful one and then, I chose to compromise my morals because I learned that I make the sinful fun.


But, don’t you worry, my halo is still intact. I just wear it now with a well-earned gangsta tilt. And yeah, I remember the days when milk did this body good. So how come I’m only pissed when my crack gets spilt? Quicker than the dope fiends hand into the sleeping victim’s stash, I have helped liquidate assets, a move that many restless fiends rehash. Now, shouldn’t the question be as simple as the answer? Wouldn’t I take it seriously if my physical being was riddled with cancer? If my fear and my loathing were displayed where my heart used to be, would the looks of terror and disgust be enough to convince me? That thinking I can come and play in the land of the shadows and simply spin away is never gonna take my pain and will be goddamned if it’s gonna let my peace stay. So, just as long as I continue to do what I’ve always done, the motherfucker I can’t stand the most is who I’m probably gonna become. Now while recognition of this seems a good start, I just found out my complacency is not all humility, and it took me this long to tell them apart. Now, one day, god’s plan for me - and my vision of it will become One I know…But until then, Pray for me. Otherwise, Just wish me luck… Cause it’s back to the jungle I go…

Dawn Coughlin-Busanet


Rean A. 16

Addiction My addiction truly is my remedy She keeps me company At 4 AM around truck smoke And alley cats, stick-up kids Cops ’n disloyal friends. Dead bodies is what has Become of partygoers Looking for fun Seeing my Addiction as a way out Of the pressure of growing up I make my lifestyle seem normal Death seem normal And normal seem wrong.

Alexis Pillot


Untitled This life needs to stop. We blame jail time on a cop. Make excuses about everything, and why we not on top. Bark on your shawty’s all over the phone like they the ones who made us pick up that chrome or sell these drugs everyday. A thug until the Feds come. Nah, bro. He was the plug. I can’t say much because I used to encourage it. But, back and forth to the Island, I’m done with seeing the same cats every day. I’m done with it. Nobodies at home are quick to act like they running sh*t. I watched a lot of clowns claim they sold a lot of pounds and they bust a lot of rounds like they the man in the town. I ain’t putting nobody down. I’m just speaking the truth from behind the wall. You can’t enjoy them steaks from Ruth’s Chris. Instead, you sharing a bathroom, smell another man’s piss. And them small beds make you want to slit ya wrists. On a visit, can’t even give ya girl a kiss. Think it’s the sex, but it’s really ya presence she miss. If you’ve got kids, think about it for their future. You don’t want ya babies looking at you like you a loser. I might not get to all, but I could get to some, and stop brothers from going home and picking up a gun. We need to take our minds and become one, and start business out there bigger than Pun.

Darvis B.


Cyclical I cry Because I fight I have this pen And my might But I tend To crush it When I’m trying Just to write All my problems on the page I bear witness to the rage From mistreatment Given to me How can I Pave the way For the next generation All I have is hesitation Stuck in shock I have a block There’s no mental Circulation Stimulations What I seek To escape The fucking beeps When I call my father No this can’t NOW be ME

Stanley Washington


A Moment Ago A moment ago, We were friends, we laughed, we played, we hung out all day. A moment ago, You were all I needed. Without you, I couldn’t breathe. I felt it deep within me. A moment ago, I had dreams, fantasies of a great life Houses, cars, everything nice. The fresh scent of pine trees when the wind breezed passed me, Stairs so deep words didn’t have to be used to express what love truly meant. A moment ago, Passion wasn’t a question. It felt like something that was supposed to be. Nothing mattered as long as you were here with me Loving me, holding me, kissing me and wanting me. A moment ago, I felt like we were the perfect Bonnie & Clyde. I told you all my secrets. There was no reason to lie. Anything you needed I never denied. I gave you all of me. Never felt like I had to hide. Just a moment ago. A moment ago, I was your queen. To you, I bling iced out without diamond rings. I was the star in your eyes bright like the sun. My everything. You called, I’d run. Just a moment ago, Your love gave me hope That there’s a chance I would be able to love again, Trust someone, Feel like someone. But, thanks to you that was Just a moment ago.

Shamirra Malloy


I Am I am a book ready to be read I am a poem ready to be told I am an actor with no potential I am a child of hers and his I am me.

Shaimel Steadwell

Untitled Sitting down contemplating how he got here, Michael Townsley is covered in sweat. All his decisions and the paths he’d taken have led him to this moment. He has a nervousness bubbling in his stomach, and wonders if he could make it through the day. He glances at the notes in his phone to make sure everything goes according to plan. He knows he shouldn’t be nervous because he’s been waiting for this life-changing moment for a long time. His palms are sweating. He can hear his own heartbeat in his ears as loud as Niagara Falls. He knew this day would come, but never thought he’d have to do this. Michael doesn’t think he has it in him. He never imagined he could be persuaded to do such a thing. He takes a deep breath, gathers his thoughts and stands up. When he hears his named called, he slips through the curtains, his robe swishing behind him. He smiles at the large audience, and begins the valedictorian speech he’s rehearsed.

Nalonte B. 21

Untitled Many women may not view themselves as such, but those who don’t must realize exactly what/who they can be to someone else. Beauty : qualities that give pleasure to the senses to exalt the mind. : loveliness. : a beautiful person or thing; esp. a beautiful woman. Queen

: a female monarch. : a woman notable for rank, power or attractiveness.


: a female god. : a woman whose charm or beauty arouses adoration.

Take time to appreciate our women who struggle to support us men, and recognize them, for exactly not just who, but what they are‌

Edward B.


Edward B. 23

Universal Woman You are truly an independent woman Mother of civilization with the strength of God’s love Mentally and physically, you are strong Your earthly being fills man’s world with so many joys and delights A heavenly smile that only you possess that gives men peace and puts him at his best Your emotions so in tune with the winds sometimes weak sometimes strong but always moving along to cool the burning pain of man being alone Your strength and unique ability has awoken the god in me to look upon the humbleness of your true value from within you life comes Yes, you are rock hard, strong but still there are those who are boys in mind and don’t understand that women are truly strong but when things go wrong God, mother or their woman is the first one they call upon But, now the time has come for you to sit upon your throne Allow me, my queen to thank you for all that you have done With the mind of a wise man and the heart of a child is how I love you

Gregory Pierce



Untitled If time is of the essence And life’s based on divine intervention With the recollection of misconception How do we mention in which the reflection that sets in Sets in With such tragedy Magic beans are unlike objects we see in magazines The power to transform is blasphemy You as well as I see In this era of terror Terror is actually happening It’s happening Cause we choose to let it Because we can’t forget it Its power is kinetic To dead it, we must edit all we fed it We fed it lies we fed it secrets We fed it all that we could never keep in To keep us from going off the deep end To believing And receiving all of life’s valuable meanings Meaning What we choose to dictate And reiterate is on us What we choose to accept comes from trust Love and lust is still a metaphor we choose to ignore Begging for mercy and living life is still part Of common controversy What’s political is literal Ask any criminal They’ll tell you They fell thru Thru the cracks Thru the system Thru all that we envisioned It isn’t fair


But who cares, who’s there to listen? We can all wish upon a star But to realize who we are May take a century of reentry To the tendencies we couldn’t follow The past is always so cold and hollow Some things are set in stone So it’s hard to swallow I wallow in my regrets But please don’t follow in my steps Because I obsess The depressed state of mind I’ve been in With all the time that I’ve been given On this heavenly earth, seems like after birth I’ve been cursed with the worst hurt In hopes to overcome my hurdles In the quest of conquering my fears Should I let go of what I hold dear Especially when the objects in the mirror seem Closer than they appear You can riddle me this And you can riddle me that, But the way life plays out, facts are facts Should we ever go back and track what we lack Or pray in silence, amongst the violence With our fingers crossed may we stop the riots But walk in peace Cause what’s in the streets in the Middle East is Something we can never defeat This generation has raised an awareness to materialism Can we ever stop terrorism? It takes heroism to bring one back home But the questions still remains Can one flame have the power to ignite the world?

In living life just like you Turning lies to truths With nothing in hand With no ground on to stand Is this part of God’s plan? Or am I a product of my mistakes? Am I the epitome of what life can give and take? Why do we lose what we should embrace? If time is of the essence And life’s based on divine intervention With the recollection of misconception Should we mention, when the reflection sets in It stays in the rear Cause all objects in the mirror Seem closer than they appear!

Margarita Bonet


Jamal H. 28

No Man’s Land You are holding me now in hand Now I am in a no man’s land Full of hatred and violence Struggling to survive and wake up another day When I wake up, the first thing I see Is four walls and I think I think of freedom, how I long to be free Since I’ve been here I’ve seen people Get cut, punched and kicked Inmate on inmate Inmate on CO CO on inmate Trust is hard to find Cause next thing you know you’re sidelined Jail makes people do things They wouldn’t usually do Some people don’t feel safe Some people do it to gain a reputation Others just don’t feel comfortable Since I’ve been here, I’ve taken every opportunity Stella Adler, CPR, gardening and GED I am in a no man’s land Waiting for justice I was arrested when I was fifteen Now I’m nineteen I feel like I’m going crazy I want to prove my innocence I want to be free

Prakash C.


Untitled Your love has left an impression with a connection so deep that even separation can not do it any harm. So, I know with conviction even with the distance, my admiration and devotion for you leaves my heart in your palm. The acknowledgement of my current environment brings frustration and demoralization upon my soul because I can’t see my creation. It only brings more determination so I can nurture that father and son bond. Through you is where I seek empowerment to conquer any obstacle. It is possible through adaptation to find a solution that’s logical so I can carry on. The consistency of my everyday thoughts of you shows me the importance you hold, and it created this substance to express my never-ending love. Undoubtedly and purely, my love is truly solely for you. I pray God is watching over you from the heavens above. It’s unfortunate we have to endure the tribulation of separation where even a simple conversation can cost me dearly. So then sincerely, I sigh and let out tears with a passionate cry. Everything happens for a reason. Only god knows best, life is just his test to see where our faith truly lies.

Enrico G.


Ode to Commissary Oh, Commissary! You are everything From you I can enjoy The snacks that you bring to me Fudgie Fires and Strawberry overturn Into my heart Oh, Commissary! My favorite is the cinnamon Danish! Even applesauce cookies! Raspberry Danishes! Oh, Commissary! You got a raspberry Danish Your feet up in the cell You don’t need nothing

Group Poem from Writers at Robert N. Davoren Complex (RNDC) on Rikers Island


Ode to Fake Friends Behind closed doors You have one thousand words But when I open the door You can hear the thump Of a pin dropping You laugh at the negative comments Used to break my spirit But you run to me faster than a cheetah To deliver the negativity You say you care for me But when the careless Speaks down on me You’re speechless Your actions are meant to Break me But you’re just repairing Me in reality THANK YOU FOR THAT



Ode to My Kids Little bundles of joy Little girl and boy To whom I haven’t met You’re so beautiful, so gentle too And I promise I won’t forget The love you two will have to give And I would never regret Little bundles of joy Little girl and boy To whom I have never met The struggles are there and true So try not to be upset For I will be there to guide you two Even though we haven’t met yet Little bundles of joy Little girl and boy My love for you is true But even though we haven’t met I am proud of you two

Tas P.


If I Love You I could make you smile when you are sad. I make you happy when you are mad. Love is the art that comes from the heart. Sex is just another part. Some say I love you very easy, yet it’s too difficult to show how much love means in all aspects of life. I thank God every day for making you my wife. People treasure materials more than flesh and bone. They even kick you out of their home. Then they blame you when they are home alone eating chicken bones with no rice and beans because they took for granted what love really means. My profession, my occupation, my transformation is something I have to mention in every celebration because you are that special if I love you.

Robert R.


Marlon Morisset 35

My Best Friend Never Knew Me You got me up everyday just to take care of you. You didn’t even care where I went let alone what I had to do. My entire life’s journey only revolved around your temptation. Yet even though for me there was never any elation. I considered us a great pair. To my understanding, it was you who really cared. I thought you filled a need. But I was just too blind to see all the crazy things you had me doing. And just what I turned out to be. But the truth is my best friend never knew me… The things you were doing to me really made no sense. And when I thought I couldn’t find you I always felt the feeling of being tense. You were the one I depended on, always true blue. At times I wanted to let you go and at times, I didn’t know what the hell to do. I know this story sounds strange and some may even call it fiction. But truth be told: my best friend’s name – was addiction.

Crystal Williams


I’m Waiting. Who’s Gonna Answer? I’m waiting on the mirror to tell me my flaws I’m waiting on the door to say this is not the life for you no more I’m looking through the window just to hear the whispering of the wind saying you don’t belong I’m waiting on the the light bulb to dim that let’s me know this life is too bitter for me I’m waiting on the curtains to close but something is telling me no matter what this life holds there’s still an opening I’m waiting on the miracles of God but he’s taking me through these obstacles so i can transform my mind I’m waiting on the leaf to tell me I can’t mingle with this individual and continue jeopardizing my life I’m waiting for an unclosed story to end I’m waiting on signs that are already brewing before my eyes I’m waiting on my thoughts, my emotions, my feelings to drown away the pain of my spouse so I can grow mature and develop on my own I’m waiting on the turning of a breakthrough to make me over I’m waiting on the midnight train to Georgia I’m waiting on the Chicago blues but something telling me I might be too much for another area I’m waiting on another event I’m waiting on the sky and the moon to tell me the darkness is over I’m waiting on the sun to tell me leave before you get burned I’m waiting on the day and night to tell me make moves for the better I’m waiting on God to bring me home I’m waiting on the Spirit to guide me I’m waiting on the Lord to encourage me I’m waiting on the Holy Ghost to fill me I’m waiting on the Savior to deliver me I’m waiting on the Word to instruct me I’m waiting on the Gospel to teach me I’m waiting on the King to grace me with his honor I’m waiting on the presence of God to show me I’m waiting on the fruits of love *peace* compassion* I’m waiting on the Son of God to save me *heal me* I’m waiting on the Father to say well done i’m waiting on the message from God I’m waiting on this cuz this is the day and night the Lord has made

Ireal K. Jacobs


God Is More Than Great God is more than great, he is the one that decides fate. For both young and old, so the story is told, Old Testament or New, This is for all of you. Grey skies or blue, God knows what we do. God is more than great, To the believers, he will open that gate. God carried me through hell where I was sent for a long spell. For many, many a year, I seen a lot die there. Many a day, I thought it could be me, but, I made it out to see. God is more than great, and he is never really late. God delivers on time, but you have to open your heart and mind. God is more than great, so evil doers don’t hate, because God is the supreme power. He saves people by the hour. Sure, people die, Sure, people cry. We know airplanes fly, but do we know why? God is more than great because God controls Heaven’s Gate!

- Mr. R. Mason


Equality Black, Asian, White, Latino, Arabic, it doesn’t matter We’re all part of the human race trying to climb the ladder All Children of God, red blood flowing through our veins Racial equality, we’re still experiencing the growing pains Police with that quick trigger finger, to serve and protect Playing God and taking innocent lives, we object I have a dream that we can all stand united And play for the same team

Dimitrios Zias


Ayat Useinoski 40

Home When I think of home, I think of home – before the government stepped in. When I think of home, I think of home – and how its grown inside this corrupted system. My Motherland, before they came and made slaves of man was a place of peace where all believed and could understand My Motherland. Like red carpets covered in rose petals, the diamond market was nothing but beautiful stones and pebbles, under the feet of tribes and rebels, whose treasure was coal to heat kettle, spearhead silver and gold metal, never heard of money, fair exchange materials, kings and queens, imperials, superior beings, beans in cereal, wheat teen, a feed a whole team of nig-a-ro, it’s the theme of things, when I think of home! Now diamonds bleed a nigga soul, where I once believe, I now see no hope, the Idi Amin’s cutting niggas’ throat, for armor-man, who defends nothing to grow, where’s karma – Man, now that I’m needing it so, only honor can, restore the rigmarole. The stock market, is like the black market, increasing, yet cutting out profits for survivors that need bargains, stuck to rent apartments, spending a rent check in departments, whether it’s court or food shopping, no benefits in what you copping, so you keep starving, ups look like save ups, that ain’t happening, and tax is an old weapon, that keep snatching, middle class owners passion, after accomplishing the retirement actions, they found a way, to take, your life earnings, as quick as the math’s in, I’m asking, what a prisoner gets after ten years, and maxing 40 dollars can barely buy a bitch a bottle of aspirin, 16 cent an hour can’t save up, too much, outlasting your bid, less you live, stomach touching ribs, looking bummy as shit, hurting yourself in the process, like rundown shoes bring calluses, prince and princess feet need to rest on beautiful stones at home.

Mersadez Lillian George


Always Remember Always remember that you were born from unique people for a unique purpose. God created you on a day that was designed to show how much he loved your parents, and how much he loved you. Always remember God put you through the craziness and situations that you needed to go through to show you how he doesn’t make mistakes and that he didn’t make a mistake, but he insists on keeping you around until he feels that his work with you is done. So always remember to thank him for his work, grace and generosity by remembering to be the very best at whatever you choose to do with your life. Honor your mother and father and your family. And above all, be blessed by being a blessing to others. And always remember to Live, Love and Laugh.

Ervin “Easy” Hunt


Student to Savage From Student to Savage, the transformation was far from average… Born in the belly of the beast, THEY thought that would be a disadvantage Used my surroundings to make my passage I started off a book worm with glasses ’n bics , Now I’m takin’ names, kickin’ asses and pointing them sticks… Now face to face with situations The Boss Lady envisioned Staring at Stu in the mirror, seeing all sorts of frustrations due to my hurried decisions But somehow, someway I have to be successful, Making all my next moves with fine precision.

P Will


Unfilled Void Roadblocks, broken maps, steel beams. Can all this mixed up matter and confusion ever sprout a hundred year old cherry tree? Serious advocates have stated the cause, but has anyone been committed to break the code?

Darryl Rice


Poverty Who am I? I watch you like a wolf, letting you believe in the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Jesus while I play chess placing situations in your path persuading you into moving the pieces I want you to, making your holding on for dear life to favorite crayon in hand a way of life. Broken glass, chalk line masterpieces, bodega cats fearing nothing until made take flight when hearing gunshots let off. Everything you know around you a hundred percent setup, tell you block ain’t hot at all, go ahead post-up; make everything all good appearing off-center. The measure of a man the same as the next when swallowed up by hell of dirt and grime but I won’t tell you that, I’ll put crack in your outstretched hand when you only want light. Family reunions and funerals, I’ll make you question if a difference exists between the two; the life of another means nothing compared to the crispiness of two patent leather shoes; the girl you love, I’ll turn all the good within ‘gainst the world have her birthing more hate; who you were growing up will be long removed from memory, a stone’s throw away; I bury everyone close to you, especially the men you know, fathers, brothers, uncles; Leaving women survivors attempting to break the cycle in absentia. So uncomfortable I leave the innocent with eyes wide shut, seeking the peace

of Heaven through prayer. Have more praising work of triple beam than the Holy Trinity, saints and sinners wear their rosaries the same way. In the dark, “Lord, please don’t let me die tonight” they say, knowing not food for worms are they to be struck down by bullets having no names. Rapping, trapping, and ball - the only out! Many churches but streets are of little faith fuck your dreams, fuck your education, and the horse you rode in on there’s no escape try as you might. Your soul and those of everyone that walks this earth belongs to me, there can never be peace to be expected be found sleeping where the monsters sleep. Who am I? I AM POVERTY.

Felix Guzman



Sahar Ismail


Innocence How innocent can I be everything falls on top of me And if it don’t fall on top of me, it falls somewhere around me. When it’s time to clean up the mess never once thinking about the stress that’s bound to progress. Feeling like there’s nothing left, so innocent can I be. Everybody sees the light in me but me. Looking for an answer but in the end of every situation I gain back my concentration for everybody to see the real me. Innocent.

Tiffany C.


First or Last Might it be asked, first or last, ponderous thought, are we ensnared by the past, who we are, what we did, a determinant totality of who we are today, ensnared by the past, dastardly acts violating boundaries, the rights and property of others; without conscience we sought to advance our instinctual cravings, ensnared by the past. Might it be asked, first or last, a ponderous thought, are we ensnared by the past, who we were, what we did, redeemed or a predacious person, who we are today, ensnared by the past, hedonistic comfort disrupted in the advent of a moral challenge to volitional conformity forged by recognizing the point of power, right here, right now or retrogressing, ensnared by the past. Might it be asked, first or last, a ponderous thought, are we ensnared by the past, who we were, what we did, bridges in between, who we are today, ensnared by the past, No longer propelled recklessly by the seven deadly sins of hedonism, by grace cometh enlighten through knowledge of self, no longer drawn to the light at the end of the tunnel, we are the light in the tunnel, least we are ensnared by the past.

Howard Harris


Emotional Awakening It was three months before I could utter the words “I love you” without feeling stupid, and without embarrassment, and then I knew it was true…For the first time in my life, I knew joy without fear, joy to the utmost joy, without doubt or worries. I finally knew what it was to love a woman that really loved me, and I love this woman, not only with sexual ecstasy, but with my mind, and my entire being, and this I never knew could be possible! Yes, I love you, Pretty!

Frowns To frown requires the combined efforts of 42 facials muscle, but to smile, only requires one third of the above mentioned! So I ask you, as well as myself, why is this world full of so many frowning faces? Could this be the result of people, afraid to share their everyday joys with the rest of the world, or is a frown a false sense of security to keep people away they feel might harm them. What do you think?

Trapped Spinning around inside a cubical so tight, it makes my mind rock, spellbound by the first rays of light; as I yet remain trying to unlock the doors from another day of being dead here inside this concrete graveyard! Surrounded by the human driftwood, here not even the strong are sure of survival; but I’ll survive if for no other reason, then I must, or may the dreaded gravediggers, have mercy on my poor wretched soul…The Most High Willing. I must rest now! Smile and the world smiles with you, but frown and you’re all alone…So smile and let us not become a marcher in the parade of miserable people…

Kasien F.T. Thompson


Impervious to Freedom There is a voice that says OK, this is not so bad from day to day. Except for the days when it resembles purgatory, which revisits again and again: how worth nothing I am. I am tethered to that voice, engrained, sustained by the long, long, day-in, day-out years of inefficacy which leave it best to expect the long grey days, and know that nights lay in wait for searching, searching light. There is a voice that knows this as the easier way. Beyond the confines of out there embrace mundane, embrace the place that keeps away the whirl of life, the whirl, whirl, whirl of days that don’t stop for a safe spot, to step off of me. I am my best today, Here, there is a voice that says OK, this is not so bad from day to day.

Patricia Howard


A Place Called Hell For some, lockdown is a lifesaver For some, lockdown is a life-changer For some, lockdown is their last stop For some, it’s hell because they finally got caught Don’t commit the crime If you can’t do the time I don’t know your motto That one is mine I’ve been locked down I’m here right now and I’ve met some of the best women I’ve ever met in my whole life Some I’ll take to the grave So it’s safe to say Jail helped me in many ways It plays a big part in who I am today I am blessed and I am saved

Dana F.


Tannia Garrins 53

Back In The Days All of us grew up with involvement in some type of extended family. We have known many women that affected our lives in one way or another that we called: Momma-Do, Big Momma, Nanna, Mommie, Dear, Mama….. and the list goes on and on. Back In The Days, the extended family was just as close to you as your natural family. The extended family member had the right to spank your butt, and if you were foolish enough to complain, you got another spanking from your biological parent or guardian at home. Back In The Days, those were some serious times and some happy days. “We” who have lived to speak about our upbringing, have survived the following: (1) GO GET ME the switch off the bush or the tree in the yard (2) HAND ME the belt skinny or wide model (3) PASS ME the ironing cord or the extension cord (4) BRING ME the frying pan (5) TOSS ME the shoe or boot (6) WHERE IS the newspaper or magazine (7) WATCH OUT FOR the lightning fast back-hand slap (8) LOOK OUT FOR the just as lightning fast open-hand slap (9) WHY WERE YOU WAITING FOR the thunderous knuckle upside the head (10) THE MIDNIGHT RAID = you got spanked while asleep and woke up crying All of this in the name of Love (smile). As we reflect on the Good Old Days, give thanks to the Creator for bringing us through that. Now, let us begin all over again, starting with the grandchildren, then the great grandchildren. You would swear that some of them didn’t come from your family tree because of their present behavior (smile). Have no fear, we adults still have the arsenal of experiences and memories to tell them about from, Back In The Days.

Nuriddin Khabir


HerTearfulDeath Crying on the inside, Where tears are unseen. The only peace felt, Is in her dreams.

So the actions of her past, Helped her take that step. Take her last breath. Hoping to heal in death.

Outside she smiles, While her heart frowns. Very bruised & hurt. Will it ever fall down?

She’s in pain. It runs through her veins. She wants to spend The rest of her life, In cold rain. That way, Her constant tears Won’t stand out. And maybe the rain, Can wash the pain out. In a flood of tears, Are bad memories & doubt. Tears join the rain, Caught by the soil. Still, she feels agony, Hate & turmoil.

Dying is her spirit. Despair fills her mind. Wishing for a healing, That she can never find. Numb are her feelings, And tired of being hurt. With lover comes hate, And tears to drown the dirt. When she hopes for better, What comes is worse. Which leads her to believe, Her heart is cursed. Males came & went, Without remorse or care. Taking so much of her love, She barely has any to share. Untrue when they smiled. Sneaky when they lied. Barely did they try. Alone she always cried.

She died in her dreams, With a smile on her face. The open flood gates, Are the lids to her eyes. So even though, in her dreams, She was able to die; When the rain stopped, Her corpse began to cry.

Ryan Bennett



Incarcerated Population This inhumanity is insanity, this injustice is disgusting, when you mean justice do you mean just us…Profit off our pain like we were a customer. How about teaching us life skills to battle life’s ills cause there’s no one left to warn us that life kills, mentally ill and locked in a cell, living in hell, why are we even here? Cause we can’t afford any bail, maybe I shouldn’t have stolen that food off the shelf, wish I would’ve known how to provide for myself, wish somebody cared enough to get me some help…Sound familiar? This system is the killer, and we’re just survivors or victims of the prison who imprisoned us and left us disenfranchised like a sinister pedo reverend at the pinnacle and used his influence for diddlin’, this is just as sickening…It’s population control, we’re treated like wild dogs without a bone turn a cage to our home… How about rehabilitation instead of mass incarceration more like mass annihilation with no hope for reassimilation, they turn a blind eye but they aren’t unaware, the same way we aren’t scared, just left scarred from battling on the yard…We might be gone and forgotten thrown in a hole ‘till our minds become rotten, plotting to do it better cause we’re thinking there’s no option, all cause we’re locked in… this mentality is toxic then they say we’re equal, when they keep you down, harass, and beat you.. black, brown, yellow, and women too, sorry I’m not sorry SIR, that we’re not like you, we’re delighted to be spiteful just to spite you, so insightful to incite a riot, and make you as fright filled as jumping head first off the Eiffel…That is old news like the prequel. They say birds fly high look at the eagles, this is a preview of the sequel to rise of a nation called Rise of the People

John Rufino


I’m Stronger Than This Been there, done that. Ain’t no going back. Ain’t no sense in getting mad over shit I done had. Too strong to be sick, I’m more tired than an old dick, but I’m stronger than this. (Play my part to the fullest) my heart is stubborn as a Taurus, I can hold on for a bit, longer than the rich, spiteful or equip, my temple built out of brick, not a bad wolf or a wolf in sheep’s shit can bad me out of it. Spirit new, but my soul is ancient. I’m unbreakable, so broken hearted don’t make sense. This is what 10 years did: fam got evict, husband jump ship, friends cold flip, but I’m stronger than this. Moms is sick, family rivalry cause splits, haven’t heard from some since, but I’m stronger than this. Lil’ bro on the strip, he selling that shit, he turning into me, but he can’t go where I’ve been, I’m stronger than him. From predator to vic, I’m stronger than this. I’m wrong, but who is more innocent than kid, love caused me this bid, da after effects did me in, you didn’t expect me to live, but I’m stronger than this. When I’m out this bitch, pray I forget and forgive cause paybacks a promise, not something I wish, all y’all have is a cage to wave, but I’m stronger than this. I got mad assist, living not rich, but more comfortable then you in your own crib, skin, and your own conscience is killing you quick, cause time is running tic tic tic, y’all ran wit the kid, y’all know how I get, till the dirt, cement or brick, I’m stronger than this.

Mersadez Lillian George


Ayat Useinoski 59

Open The Cell Opennnn the cell, It’s like hell, between barbells and wires, And I just want my voice heard, The judge don’t give a fuck, Of the pain and fear I cover, Exposing anger and damage Through moments as time flies, Why I gotta be held in, If I just wanna be next to humans who give a damn Of who I am, Beyond a number Officer, officer Just let me breathe outside for 5 minutes, Without chains between my life before I finish Even hanging myself up,


Or should I snort dope, Just to escape all the days Of made blatant suffering I mean, I never did it before, Or even safer, let me buy some methadone, So when I mention home, I can nod off nod off And forget, Forget why I’m here, Forget I am more than a single tier, Not the ones that I drop Out of depression because a recession I was born in, Where cops see a brown or black colored human, We’re considered stupid, and useless Oh wait, we do have a use,

We’re the income for the city’s net worth, I just wanna rap, sing and harmonize But pardon guys, I was labeled of less worth, So, I guess my dreams became shackled, As I’m tackled by single digit numbers, That add to triple digit days, And the math due, Doesn’t come close, to seeing my family go, As I’m sitting in a damn cage, I don’t wanna be used as a count no more, I don’t wanna be called for chow no more, I ain’t gonna do the same thing, Go outside and wear clothes, and diamonds, Just to impress a girl that’s gonna break me apart, And then I’ll backtrack to do the same thing, It’s like a cycle And looking into the mirror, Created a reflection, That connected deeper than my skin color, Or the hood i was raised in, I don’t wanna be a gangster no more, I don’t wanna be the plug, I don’t wanna be the asshole no more, That was hurting my family from the possession of drugs, I just wanna be free, And let my voice be heard, And move forward in life, Create a light in this dark cell, Through the words that I write.

Mic Ruiz


Phone Call To Heaven Moe: God, it’s MoeMoney callin’ back exactly as I promised. Thank you for picking up cuz right now, I’m needing your guidance. The opposition been tripping, I’m trying to keep it modest, but my tolerance for nonsense got death all over my conscious. God: Moe, I love you, but I refuse to let you keep doing this. You ruining your chance at the music with all this foolishness. Moe: God, it ain’t me. Can’t you see these people keep testing me? I’m global in my living environment, what you expect from me? When I was reaching for Regents, teachers were thinking less of me, but School of Hard Knocks wasn’t hesitant in accepting me. You put me through the worst, how could you expect the best of me? Look at how many of my loved ones you took from next to me! God: Moe, if you calling to question me, save your energy. If you would’ve gave into me, you wouldn’t have made these enemies. You played with the piece & still expected serenity. You old enough to know that what you sow is what you gonna reap!


Moe: I picked up the metal to protect us from the Devil, cuz you stuck us in the ghetto where everybody’s a rebel! God: That’s a lie, Moe. You know it. Pride just won’t let you show it cuz it’s lawyers from the hood & doctors, teachers & poets. I planted you here at birth yet you still ain’t choose to outgrow it. I put stones in front of that glass house, but never told you to throw it! I called ya brothers home, now you should cherish every other one. Yea, ya mother here with me, but I gave you another one. Moe: You did! And I appreciate all that she’s ever done for me, but being adopted was the furthest thing from fun for me! You know how many fights I done had when they tried to come for me? Because I’m black & my mother white, I couldn’t live comfortably! Don’t nobody comfort me! I wipe these tears & I been using this same tissue for 19 years! God: Moe, lower ya tone. Moe: No, God, hang up the phone, cuz you left me here alone & you don’t see nothing wrong! My house is not a home. Rodents roam, I’m too big to live with them. My lifestyle wasn’t fit for a condominium. God: Moe, you took a mile any time I ever left a inch. Moe: God, I don’t think you understand what them measures meant! I went to extremes just to see me & my fellas win. God: Moe, You can’t help no one if you sitting in a cell again! Look, I gotta get back to these prayers & these blessings. Moe: God, I understand & I love you. Thanks for the lessons.

Moses “MoeMoney” Santana


We The People We were at a disadvantage from the start But we got heart And we stretch our arms and pull up no matter how high you set the bar We are unashamed and unapologetic We are who we are We are not defined by the worst thing we’ve ever done We still love the community from which we were shunned We welcome any opportunity for change with open arms We are willing to put in the work Doesn’t matter for how long Truly the only difference between you and we is we constantly have to prove we are not who we used to be They still struggle to believe we gave up criminality But we don’t care There is work to be done We know that we will be the ones

Curintina Mulrain Mims


Hercy Ramos


Verbal Accolades or Alcholades Let the weary drown!! In his own sorrow Yet he smiles As they rip into him and tear him down He’s hurting actually I guess ‘till he realizes What you define as Blemishes Adds character to his personality He’s an active addict So passionate, so compassionate So charismatic!!! So endearing, people draw near him As if he was a magnet And he can’t understand it Truthfully speaking, he actually hates it, damn it. For he sees himself as the true life version of the movie A Bronx Tale Where the worst thing in the world is wasted talent Yet on rare occasion he performs The people applaud, they scream bravo!! They say he’s so superb Indeed, verbal alcholades received For his finding a way of putting feelings into words But where does he go from here? Where!!?? He’s afraid of success And he’s definitely afraid of change His excuse to himself and others is What will he write about if he let’s go of the pain He can’t get well, so he gets ill Because no matter how convincing his excuse may sound Deep down, it doesn’t sit well And him being known for his brutal honesty Can’t be walking around as if he doesn’t know that shit smells Therefore he grieves within Being that he can’t see what you see in him He winds up Disappointing everyone that believes in him!! He has no training, he has no coach Yet he fights, knowing he’s going to fall For in his eyes he’d rather be known as a loser As opposed to not being known at all

Miguel A. 66

Untitled I look around I’m seeing black bags under eyes on over-aged faces, Arms with blown out veins, Worn out kicks from nights spent pacing. It’s just heartbreaking, The things we do to ourselves to get high. Justified by “we just doing what we need to get by.” I mean why lie? It feels so good, so we don’t care that it’s so wrong. So we chase that high, leave who we are in the rearview like “so long.”

Ron H.




How Can You H What You N

Hubert Harris

Heal Never Reveal -Jay-Z


Broken Man’s Dream We choose to refuse question the depths of desperation present within ‘til struggle becomes presenting reflection in eyes shining lesser than dim. Death coloring ceiling of the coffin of man blind to a broken man’s dream outside our windows gunshots lullaby roses that grow from the concrete unlearnt to breathing, holding tight to heartbeats while youth is betrayed. I know this to be fact chalk lines write eulogies in advance of every wake, first impressions being everything, take care not speak a broken promise. Ever notice how when streets are quiet, you don’t know them as haunted; Where avenue meets the street, pause a moment look both ways please; within the silence of expectation witness flowing through veins be anxiety Truth of the matter is peace lives behind closed eyelids, catch a glimpse pursue dream night might not have to give; be living will and testament goal for the living earn enough to be well-fed. Jails, institutions and debt poisoned wells never provide water enough to satisfy world of thirst, adrift on borrowed time without progress. No rest for the weary is there, flowers for the dead - star-crossed poets in the night find selves in the darkest hours.

Felix Guzman


I Had a Dream My brothers and sisters, a long time ago yeah, a very long time ago, when I was lost lonely and broke I had a dream that Daniel would rise from the ashes I had a dream that those ghetto ashes would be burnt up crack pipe ashes I had a dream that my life would turn to diamonds I had a dream that I would shine like glitter I had that dream that only young boys have fast cars fast money fast times fast women not girls would dance for a dream I had a dream that I would shine turn my life around play on a baseball mound

I had a dream that success for me would come on a highway grow from here to there yonder I had a dream that Coxsackie’s Attica’s Auburn’s walls would burn so I could walk upon their burning ashes a free man.

Daniel Cotto


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