Douglas, 54

Douglas, 54

Meet Douglas…

Laughter helps me remember the warmth of the sun when the chill of loneliness becomes almost too much to bear.

Incarcerated: 5 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, California
I am a single father of three. I must be honest, this journey has been a test of humility and patience. I have had an opportunity to be still and explore who I am, to know I am worthy of destiny and that I need not settle for consequence. I am an artist of pens, pencils and paint brushes, a Spoken Word Poet and writer. I am addicted to reading books. I am an animal lover and child of the beaches of northern California. I have rediscovered the infectious sense of humor that I got from my mom. Laughter helps me remember the warmth of the sun when the chill of loneliness becomes almost too much to bear. I find myself encouraging anyone who will listen (even myself) that genuine kindness is truly a super power. I have learned by being kind to our neighbors and strangers, it has allowed me to help heal some of the harm and ugly hurt my irresponsibility have created. By reclaiming my humanity and being committed to restoring my community it has allowed me to be healed.

Dearest Love
It is not fair that
I am lost in the cruel afterglow
Of your fleeting bliss,

I shiver in emotions I can’t control
Bound by tangible memories I cannot escape,

I find myself dreaming within
A fog of immeasurable yearning,

Wanting, craving…
And needing you,

Only to awaken in the warm euphoria of your touch,
Suffering the delicious pain of your absence,

I find myself loving deeper
And missing you more,
By, Truth N. Poetry
Aka Douglas

It still hurts
When I look Back,
Thru the unnecessary pain
And the guidance I lacked,
The invisibility of love
The cruel and abusive acts,
Witnessing “Domestic Violence”
The punches and slaps,
The hopelessness I felt
In our dysfunctional trap,
Lost my Mama to drugs
No, I don’t mean crack,
Learned early not to dream
Because my skin was black,

In reality my skin is Brown

But it didn’t stop the systems
From holding me down,
When ever I displayed Brilliance
I always received a frown,
So I gave up and became
The inevitable class clown,
Born and raised in East Oakland
A city but called “The Town”’

For reason
I never understood fully,
At each school
I always fought the bully,

Maybe it was attitude
Perhaps it was my tone,
Or quite possibly I was rehearsing
The brutality I learned a home,

For my behavior
I had no explanations or excuses,
As I was too ashamed to talk about
The daily abuses,

Teachers always said I was smart
Good comprehension, could read and write,
Suffered repeated suspension
For getting into fights,
I started running away
I felt safer in the night,

Once I was almost
Beaten to death
Shortly thereafter
I turned to theft,
I use to get E’s
Soon all I got was F’s,

Emotionally malnourished
I still gave it my best,
As I was choked & slapped
Welts all over my flesh,
One teacher was curious
But wouldn’t hazard a guess
One asked “how come my wounds
Always seem fresh,”
But I was taught
To lie to C.P.S.,

Not adult dared
To be my savior,
Or at least make the connection
Between my scars & my behavior,

Not one family member
Came to court,
As I was described as a
Monster in the Probation Report,

They years of “Child Abuse”
Manifested into crime,
Anti-social delinquent
Was my state of mind,
Juvenile Hall to California Youth Authority
Sadly, I made it to the big time,
The judge was uninterested in why
He said I finally crossed the line,

The past abuses I suffered shattered
My dreams clouded my visions,
As a result of this corruption
I spent over 23 years in prison,
Denying my mental & emotional issues
Was a costly decision,

No one acknowledged that I
Was abused by a goblin,
But punished me
As if I was the problem,
Mental Health Issues
Make no mistake I got em’,

P.T.S.D., Depression
And Anxiety are real
My scars invisible to the naked eye
Familiar would no hand can feel,
A survivor of
A childhood which haunts me still,
By Truth N. Poetry
Aka Douglas

Kunta, 28

Kunta, 28

Meet Kunta…

At first, I didn’t even notice that I was easing the hurt from my soul. Even though I am not fully healed, I have come a long way and I am doing a whole lot better. So, I continue to write, healing my soul.

Incarcerated: 10 years

Housed: San Quentin State Prison

I’ve been locked up since I was sixteen. In the beginning, I really struggled because I didn’t know how to verbally express myself. I would be drowning on the inside because of all of the words and feelings that I wasn’t expressing. One night in my cell, I started writing poetry. The next day, I let my brother read it and he liked it, which inspired me to keep writing. This was ten years ago. At first, I didn’t even notice that I was easing the hurt from my soul. Even though I am not fully healed, I have come a long way and I am doing a whole lot better. So, I continue to write, healing my soul. Hopefully, in the process, I am able to help heal a little of the world’s pain through my words. Because of my poems, my words are my truest and sincerest feelings – my worries, my hurts, my depression. I share openly with you, all in hopes of letting you know that you are not alone in this world because I am out here with you in spirit.


“Depressed State of Mind”

Running from my reality

On the brink of losing my sanity

Carrying the world on my shoulders

An’ yet they are still mad at me


Quite often I’m neglected

Soul in a constant state of depression

In a head-on collision with rejection


I’m breaking mirrors

Can you speak louder so the message will be clearer

Voices yelling in my head

And I still can’t hear ya


Thoughts of suicide

So why should I fear ya

I’m drowning in despair

Agony filling my lungs


So there’s no air

No hope of breathin’

Got me afraid of sleeping

Because all I see is demons


Fighting to devour my soul

Feels like I’m losing control

My body holding on and my soul still letting go

My heart beatin’ hectic


I was born dead

So tell God my body

He can come collect it

LaQuinton, 35

Meet LaQuinton…

It has taken me 22 years, to wake up, and see the streets are not for me. All I’ve done to myself, is mess it up. You ask where am I going with this? I say all of this because it take me a long time to wake up and see that bad roads only lead to worse roads.

Incarcerated: 3 years
Housed: Sacramento, California
One day I woke up in the hole and started praying to God. I prayed and told God, “All my life I tried to do things my way, and now look at where I am.” I told God that I am ready to do his will and that I want to be a leader. I then asked, “Who am I going to lead?” In order to be a great leader you have to be a great follower. So I finished praying and started cleaning my cell, and heard from God. He told me “You’ve always been a leader you just followed the wrong people.” There comes a time in a man’s life where he realizes – when he was a child, he acted like a child. Now as a 35 year old man, it’s time to act like one and put childish things away. My whole life, I made bad decisions going down the wrong road. I started gangbanging, smoking and drinking at 12. I have robbed, been robbed, shot and been shot. Been to different states and sold drugs. I have pimped women. You can say I have done it all. Now look at where my life has taken me – to prison, in the hole, for a knife. Not once in the 22 years I’ve been on that road, have I given God a chance. It has taken me 22 years, to wake up, and see the streets are not for me. All I’ve done to myself, is mess it up. You ask where am I going with this? I say all of this because it take me a long time to wake up and see that bad roads only lead to worse roads. But if I put my trust in a higher power, the sky is the limit. I’ve missed out on my kids lives. Many things I can not get back in life. Cars, house, money, love and trust, but time you can’t get back. So I ask who ever reads this, please let someone you know that’s on a bad road – its not going to work out the way they think. Remember God is love and love conquers all.

Messages from Within

Messages from Within

Hello readers. This is Alex Ross, Humans of San Quentin’s poetry director. Those of us in prison have all made mistakes that we cannot take back. We were prisoners to our ignorance. We cannot give you advice, but we can offer some food for thought from our own perspective. Before you pick up that gun, hit a person, or decide to use drugs, consider the outcome of our mistakes and ask yourself: do you really want prison to be your final destination?

“Food for Thought” by Alex, 54

If I were four fingers,
A palm, and a thumb
Attached to a wrist
Who would I be attached to
Who would I work for
What would my mission be
Would I be just a limb
Or a boxer’s knockout hand
Would I be an audience’s clapping hand
Or a priest’s praying hand
Would I be a woman’s hand doing the job
Of a man’s hand
Or a woman’s hand rearing children
Again and again
Would I be a chief, a thief,
Police, or a creep?
A hand has no choice
You do.

“Falling Forward” by Dennis, 49

Look back at the cold air floating around the child
who decides the world is unnurturing

 Look back at the doors life drags us through
these gateways to beliefs that weren’t the truth

Look back at the sum of your choices
pretending everything happens for a reason

Look back at the prisons I built for myself
long before I even came to prison

Look back at that long night of tears
My conscience weeps over the faces I’ve harmed,
the faces I can’t remember

Look, back through the multiverse to the life I
could’ve built if those days never happened

Look back at the change the next minute offers on endorsement

LOOK. We can breathe again. We are perfectly
imperfect alchemists capable of turning our hard
things into gold

I’m much better for looking more repentant,
humble, wise,
knowing I have my own answer. 

“More than Enuff” and “Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma” by Paul, 64

More Than Enuff?

Am I not a man?
If I am not,
Then what I am?
Can I not bend light
So as to be unseen,
Like a double-heliotroped,
Mirrored magazine?
Like condensation,
Slipping through walls?
Cannot I reconstitute
My nucleoid mass,
So that I may drift,
Like a vapored gas?
May I not twist time
Returning history,
Like a reimagined memory?
Cannot I bend reality
Travel through space,
Within Dark Void’s
Desperate face?
He has heard my plea
Beyond this place
Saying that I must yet flee
To truly be free
I dream through these walls,
Unseen, yet still me
Within memories’ halls,
My mind drifts away,
A macabre mystery
Life’s distorted play
Neglected history
Trying not to be annoyed
Still existing
Within this dark void
I am all powerful?
I am utterly helpless?
I am neither?
I am both?
And No
Lord God
Thank you though
For Grace
Within this place 

Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma

A beautiful angel I mistook
A hearty pebble under her brook
A flying fish she did hook
Misbegotten pole
My beleaguered soul
Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma

Into roiling soil
Navajo mud toy toil
Disused sock puppet,
On grass
Her hand,
Hear my love-song,
So crass
Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma

Phosphorescent specter
Of love’s sweet nectar
I could only
But concur
Did not deter
Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma

This was not
His blessing
A flight from above
Of God’s most merciful dove
No, twas a soulless succubus
For me to love
Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma

Hidden, black mass
Heart breaking like glass
Lustful Fool
Fell into the deep end of the pool
Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma

I could not break free
Of this terrible responsibility
Please release me
Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma

In my teeth,
My feet,
The Abyss beneath
I do hereby bequeath
Myself a funerary wreath
Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma

“To Know Your Strongest Power” by White Eagle, 63

A Sundance Woman
Like the Morning Star
Different, powerful
Equal partner

 Mother Earth
Father Sky
Heart and mind
As one

They give us knowledge
Our ceremonies bear the best






Power and Beauty
Spirit and Heart

 Mother earth
The Indian Woman

John, 40

John, 40

Meet John…

 I wanted something better. I wanted to go home. I realized I wasn’t worth anything doing bad. I embarked on a journey of transformation. I took control of my life and destiny.

Incarcerated: 23 years

Housed: San Quentin State Prison

She was a teen mom, raising me in poverty. I didn’t feel life’s hardships until I was teen. My grandmother, who loved me dearly, passed away. My dad was already in prison. My step dad was known for the biggest drug bust of all time and earned a long prison sentence. After his arrest, my family endured a lot of pain. I tried to stay out of trouble by going to school, working and playing ball, while all my friends went to the California Youth Authority. In the hood, there was nothing but devastation, poverty, prostitution, drugs, gangs, domestic violence and corruption. I ignored it, not knowing how to ask for help. I turned to the gang lifestyle, fast money, not thinking this abuse was an addiction and would become my norm. One day my life spiraled out of control. I shot and killed a human being. I was given a 57 to life sentence for murder. In prison, I continued to live the gang lifestyle. I landed in the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison. The gang culture was deep, violence, riots, stabbing and killings was the norm.  After 12 years, I woke up and saw I was destroying myself and realized the harm I was inflicting on people and my family. I wanted something better. I wanted  to go home. I realized I wasn’t worth anything doing bad. I embarked on a journey of transformation. I took control of my life and destiny. I stopped killing the authentic me by committing violence. I attended self-help classes, I identify my character defects and warped belief systems. I changed my thinking, reactions and habits. Positivity became second nature. I earned a college degree, completed vocational trainings, and have been disciplinary free. After taking parenting and family relation classes, I began to build better relationships. I was grateful and surprised by their encouragement and pride in me. Instead of being leary or worried, they can’t wait for me to come home, if God wants. In the process of this journey, my release date changed. I qualified under Senate Bill 260 & 261 as a youth offender.  go to the parole board next year. I am optimistic and hopeful. I contribute my success and change to those whom I owe amends.