Skip to main content

Jeffery, 60
Incarcerated: 23 years
Housed: Fayette County Prison, Pennsylvania

My Existence
What does it mean to exist?
To live inside confines designed to remind you who you are, 
dream of who someone could be with the promise of a hope to be free?
From the moment I began serving time, 
repeatedly or in the case of a life sentence,
I have pondered the relativity of my existence.
Where does my existence lie?
Is it merely gaged by the 15 minute phone calls
or the once yearly, twice weekly virtual visits?
How much do I exist in the lives of those I claim to love 
when the hurts of yesterday linger into an eternity of denials 
for a second chance irrelevant, of what I’ve done to encourage them?
What does my existence mean to those making decisions to my return to the community I hale from, 
wanting to repair damages done?
There are many examples of positive individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
whose existence in history remains, I ask: “Why?”
Because of the impact they’ve had on the world from what they’ve done, 
or is it by who they were as individuals?
Likewise there is Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, 
whose existence neither can be denied because of what they’ve done; 
or is it by who they were as individuals?
Every person’s existence clearly matters differently, collectively and individually. 
Whether it is because of an action taken in our lives 
that outshines or emboldens the individual component of one’s existence.
Does it make the individual?
The furthest reaches of the world may not know I exist, 
though clearly I do, it does not make me any less of an individual. 
Nor does sitting in prison serving a life sentence complement my individuality in a world
I am not fully aware of it but I do exist.
It is that I strive, embarking forward asking to whom does my existence matter? And why?
Is my existence realized because of what I’ve done in my life, 
or by the character of the individual I am, 
especially when no one is looking?
Do I matter enough to myself to strengthen my existence to myself
though the world may not know me?
As survivors we matter to each other because of the shared reality of poverty, incarceration, physical/sexual/emotional abuse.
We may not know each individually, 
however we exist in togetherness and that makes me…
Stronger to Glorify God.

If I Were A Book
If I were a book, 
What kind of book would I be?
One of mystery and intrigue people suspensefully read?
Filled with exploits and heroism some ponder to see,
About ones strength and confidence I wish I could be,
A book some day the world could see…
Finally then I’d be set free.

Or I could be a book with pictures, safe for children to see…
Learning life lessons for a strong society.
Their parents could teach, help guide them to read,
Dreaming precious dreams of who they’d be.
Not hindered by the prejudice history did see…
The heart of the world, a chance to be free.

What if I were a book that could touch one’s soul,
A balm for life and help some feel whole.
Mending broken pieces left among the cold,
Like these tattered and torn pages still unsold.
Here they could find love and joy for the old…
Courage to be strong, knowledge to be bold.

I should be a book sharing stories of me,
My deeper ups and downs, hidden secrecies.
Admitting times I cried uncontrollably,
Accepting myself now for the whole of me,
Motivating others, daylight they may never see…
A journey of time, what made me free.

Trials and errors that some may relate,
Living life beforehand, not so great.
Here inside for death do I wait,
So many things determine your eternal fate.
I wish for the chance, may it not be too late…
The body they have, the mind they can’t take.

If I were a book, what kind could I be?
A book yet unwritten just like me,
Time can be eternity…
Change comes inevitably,
People seek prosperity…
Life is reality,
I’m not a book, I’m just finding me…

Receive more inspiring stories and news from incarcerated people around the world.