The question that people ask me, once the initial shock of finding out I was in prison wears off, is usually “Wow! How was it in there?”
Sometimes I laugh at their question. Other times, I just want to sarcastically answer “Well…except for being locked in a cell most of the day on most days for thirteen years, and having to worry about getting killed at the hands of other people or the correction officers, it was a pleasant experience.” It’s like asking a homeless person how is he doing. Really? However, I know the question is asked partly out of curiosity and admiration for having survived such an oppressive environment. The stereotypes of people in prison and those who are formerly incarcerated are so inaccurate and prevalent that people who have never been there want to confirm all they have heard.
So to help in satisfying that curiosity here’s a poem out of my journal dated April 15th, 2008 (my birthday by the way):
“I happened to cross paths with a deer today…Well, not really ‘crossed paths’….More like came face to face. See, I happened to be walking by a fence and there it was …eating grass, savoring every last piece of God’s green earth. It seemed to be minding its own business, oblivious to my intrusive eyes filled with curiosity and amazement at its bushy white tail and almond-shaped eyes.
The growling in my stomach served as a reminder that I’ve never eaten deer before. I hear they taste better than steak…healthier too. I guess I’ll try anything once…as long as it doesn’t involve another man. It would be quite a change to my present diet which is filled with exotic dishes with hard-to-pronounce names which taste like four-letter words that are too easy for me to say…especially when I’m angry.
I was startled when the deer looked up at me suddenly aware of my presence. To my surprise, it did not run or make any noise. It simply stopped chewing the grass that I can only imagine tasted just like…..grass! Nope, it didn’t do anything but stare. Not like a stare someone gives you when they catch you admiring them from afar. NO, this was more……..sympathetic. More like the look you give someone when you want to tell them something, but you don’t, because you know that person would be devastated if they were to find out. Yeah, that kind of stare!
I could no longer bear it… I averted my eyes elsewhere, not out of fear…I mean, I’m not afraid of shit!…. Well, maybe HIV, but that’s it! No ….the reason I looked away, was because right at that moment, at that exact second I became aware of a startling reality…My Startling Reality.
For the first time in my life, I was staring at a wild animal from the wrong side of the cage.”
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