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

Question
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?
Yes,
And No
Lord God
Thank you though
For Grace
Within this place 

Trickle, Trick, Treacle, Trauma

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

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

Blue,
Phosphorescent specter
Taste,
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

Itch,
In my teeth,
Fear,
My feet,
The Abyss beneath
Myself,
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

 Honor
Respect

Men
Women

 Song
Dance

 Family
Tribe

 Children
Generation 

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. 

Paul, 64

Paul, 64

Meet Paul…

Life is a play. We play many parts, when the curtain is drawn, what will it all mean? Peace is a process, not an acquisition.

Incarcerated: 20 years
I am a prisoner, a pauper, a poet, a painter and an author. I am a father and a son. My life is more than half over. It feels like I was born here in this cage, and when I die it will be my mausoleum. Life is a play. We play many parts, when the curtain is drawn, what will it all mean? Peace is a process, not an acquisition. Hear me, I am the silent one, the one you cannot see, then I shall fade away. Think before you feel. Be careful, life is full of negative emotions.
Breathe!

Body And Soul
Is love a desire and lust a need?
Is lust a desire and love a need?
The body has needs
The heart has capacity

Control of one is possible,
But are both?
Or is all truly illusion?
Do we control anything at all?

Love we cannot demand
It must be given freely
Yet we can open out hearts to love
Though to love is not always wise

Lust demands a payment from the soul
Love rarely remains unbroken
When all is done
When life and love and lust are through
Only death remains

Life and Death are opposites
Are Love and Lust?
Death knows no weakness
Only Purpose

Love Sorrow
Imprisoned corpses shake the ground
In a box of iron ore, limestone, silica sand
A container and magnet for negativity

Love rarely remains unbroken
Flying wingless detritus
Sorrow is a ghost of pain and grief
Immortality of spirit

Pale horse frowned
That a heart cannot be stolen
It must be freely given

Entertainment grabs your mind
Love hangs on a cross only as a symbol
Of our unwillingness to reply in kind
Though to love is not always wise

Daniel, 59

Daniel, 59

Meet Daniel…

To this day I don’t ignore warning bells in the back of my head. If I suspect wrong-doing, I say something. Please don’t be afraid to say something if you see or suspect something wrong. Please.

Incarcerated: 22 years

My girlfriend stayed in the car while I went into the 7-11. I needed some smokes. As I came out, I was confronted by a very large man, over six feet and over 320 pounds. He asked me for directions to Fiesta Village Amusement Park. He was very polite and well-spoken, “Sure, go that way for about half a mile, it’ll be on your right.” “Thanks,” he said, “I’m just looking to entertain the kid for a while…” I glanced at his Oregon-plated Mustang II, parked next to my Camaro; in the passenger seat was the most delightful looking princess ever; big dark eyes with long super-curly hair… maybe eight or nine years old at the most. I’ll never forget that he used the word ‘the kid.’ I ignored the bells going off in the back of my head. He went into the 7-11 and I got back in my car. “Honey,” my girlfriend said, “look at that little girl.” I glanced over and locked eyes with Princess. She held my gaze way longer than a normal child would. “She looks nothing like her daddy.” I glanced back at Princess… in her $10000 dress. Princess continued holding my gaze. Another bell in the back of my head went ignored. I started my Chevy and said, “Not our business.” I saw that little Princess about a year later, below the words, “Have you seen me?” were those dark eyes and curly locks. She was on a carton of milk, where they put pictures of kids that are kidnapped. The milk carton described the man – 6’2”, 340 pounds, driving a smaller car with out-of-state plates. It was them. IT WAS PRINCESS. Not reporting him was the worst thing I ever did. To this day, I don’t know if she ever got back to her family. To this day, Princess’s dark, pleading eyes haunt me. To this day, I don’t ignore warning bells in the back of my head. To this day, if I suspect wrong-doing, I say something. Please don’t be afraid to say something if you see or suspect something wrong. Please.