Poetry from behind bars
Leg irons, waist chains, locks, and handcuffs,
it's deja vu far from home stranded in place where I gotta man up.
All because I didn't want to give my man up,
and this same man came to trial, his right hand up.
And "told the truth, the whole truth" and got me jammed up,
now I'm in this can stuck this is just my damn luck.
I sold drugs but got sentenced like I killed in cold blood,
mama cried, my wife right by her side,
I'm not there and my son is starting to inquire why.
And I'm comprising lies but yet he still replies with why,
and I can die inside it burns my heart like cyanide that,
I left them out to dry and took the sun right out of there sky,
I think about how I....
I used to be the flyest guy, reputation giant size,
now I'm just a number, at night I close my eyes and cry.
I'm surrounded by, killers and murderers, drug dealers, burglars,
perverts and rapist and men with girl faces.
It's like I took the red pill now they got me in the "matrix,"
controlling my every move like they got me by the laces.
I gotta live by the "man's' " rules, eat the "man's' " bland food,
two men to a cell so we're packed in like canned food.
I'm a damn fool, can't do the things a man do,
what me and my wife did, now me and my hand do.
I used to have my own crib, now I live in a bathroom,
on a hard cot.
This is the home of the hard knocks,
gangsters, hustlers, sneak thieves, and card sharks.
There's violence on the gallery, homosexuality,
and other technicalities like police brutality,
And that's just a piece of reality.
You have the "bloods" and the "aqui's," "crips" and the "papi's,"
"Jamaicans," "Caucasians" and some are "god body."
There's violence and animosity so misery’s the norm,
egotism, chauvinism, bigotry, and scorn.
Young men who're 17, men with kids they never seen,
and some are never coming home, this is place where they sever dreams.
Cuttings and stab wounds grudges held from last June,
friends turn enemies the penitentiary is bad news.
It's sad too, to see men live sedated, numb and medicated,
living in a haze not knowing where the days went.
But this is payment for earning money that was tainted,
so they buried me alive, but on the other side of the pavement.
That amazing piece of work was written by one of our prison poets -- Jamie. And I use it now because of the massive drug and weapon raids happening in Schenectady. These are the Feds coming in, even a federal D.A., and they are invoking the RICO or racketeering laws, which involves lengthy terms in federal prisons. All in all the last two weeks at least 30 arrests have been made on ages 16 to 37, with at least 4 more under warrant. This is a small city, and this is a lot of gang activity. All stemming from drug sales. And there was Bob Carney all over the news saying, “this is only the tip of the iceberg; there’s a lot going on here.”
And still I scream about the drug house next door, code violations alone should bring it down. On the side where the cut through from Albany Street to State Street exists, most of the windows are smashed and are not boarded up. Police cars sit in that spot to give speeding tickets. But nothing is done about all the criminal behavior going on, not even 10 feet away from their parked cars.
Catholic Charities were here last week to give a presentation at S.I.C.M. of their clean needle exchange, and they told me that driving through that pass-through at 1:00 in the afternoon they witnessed an open air drug deal. The people involved made no effort to conceal their purpose which I find pretty obnoxious.
I went to the meeting and was disgusted to find I was the only youth agency represented. Talk about outstanding indifference. The folks there were from Catholic Charities, the Aids Council of Northeast N.Y., S.I.C.M. and the Department of Health. Whitney Young had been involved in a prior meeting in Albany.
Now you do the math -- 30 or more arrests made for drug dealing and no turnout from your agencies. Priorities, folks, priorities. This is not to mention Schenectady Street, where the rocking chairs and portable heaters rock and run all winter and one of the local churches are trying to start its own watch program to clean the streets out.
And still there is no collaboration. I, personally, have been going to three agencies on the Hill literally begging to work with any or all of them. Two of them are receiving city funding to work with disaffected youth. I have been waiting 5 weeks just for an e-mail from one, just and e-mail, in order to try and set up a simple meeting, just to share information. If they are not interested let them plainly say so. Just say no. Instead of playing the “I’m so busy game.” What? Too busy to send an e-mail that says, “no, not at this time.” Unable to step up an answer a direct question.
Do they really think we are all fool enough to keep extending the hand of friendship to someone who thinks so little of us and the children we all share. No answer is of course an answer, but it is the rudest way possible. It is saying that we are far too beneath their notice to notice. Kids keep saying, “How do they expect us (kids) to get along and work together if they won’t?” And the kids got me right there. Got me and my staff. I must say the staff is grumbling about this too. Update: There may be some hope on the horizon.
Officer visits QUEST
But -- here’s a stupendous and beautiful but -- last week a female Hispanic police officer visited QUEST. I tried to keep our group small but we wound up with 13 kids all 9 to 12 and one 16-year-old. We sat in a circle on folding chairs when Officer Mosher came in everyone slumped and sighed, and no one would speak. But Officer Mosher is so gifted and talented that 10 minutes down the line one, then two, then three people started raising their hands.
Yes -- they actually raised their hands and 90 minutes later I had to interject with “only two more questions -- ok, one last question.” These kids talked about why cops shot people, did she (Officer Mosher) ever shoot anyone? Why they were brought up to be afraid of cops. About their family members in prison. One had a family member that had been shot by an officer.
They did skits revolving around split-second decision-making. They learned what parts of the body the police vest protected. Officer Mosher often responded with, “Why be afraid, I am a person just like you, I eat and drink and go to the bathroom just like you do.” When finally we were finished, each child put their chair away and encircled Ms. Mosher, asking if they could see the police vehicle. She asked me if I would mind and I said, “of course not” and we all clumped outside into the chilly drizzle.
And then “oh gloriousky” they did the siren, the lights, the microphone, every major and minor delight to be had on that car. And there’s Ty-Quan spinning in the parking lot and saying, “this was the best thing ever.” And the next day everyone was asking when she was coming back. She did suggest a follow-up being a tour of the police station and the kids were definitely all for that field trip.
We have two Guyanese girls who brought their father to the presentation and he said he knew many Guyanese children who were terrified of the police and could they come along when we visited the police station. He said their parents would drive and be present. Now this is excellent, this is a collaboration of the best kind.
And to Officer Mosher I respond by saying, “You and I may not always agree on everything but I honor and respect what you do (proper use of the word respect). You are a shining star in this department. I am proud to know you and you are an example of an outstanding officer of the Schenectady Police Force.”
I will always remember her statement. “I always have my best weapon to fall back on, my voice. Remember you can stop a lot of violence by talking to people.”
Easter came in as a quiet and windy day with much sun and a million birds blowing across the sky. Simple dinner with good wine cooked by my daughter and shared with the animals. The glass of wine I drank at bedtime sent me off to a wonderful night’s sleep and sweet Technicolor dreams. Woke to March weather in April and everyone else curled up and asleep. Hibernating. This Monday is a time of peace and reflection and I am grateful. There is a bright splotch of color in the yard and it is a cardinal at the feeder and a humming bird has a nest on my front porch. We have never had a hummingbird living on our porch and this is a blessing.
Wilbur’s fur is growing longer and longer and will be hitting the floor soon. He is beginning to look like a yak. When the refrigerator door opens he and Ernie run shoulder to shoulder to see what’s up. They sit expectantly staring at the door, compadres in greed. And we were worried they would hate each other. LOL (my cat and dog that is).
I played at Proctors on the Sunday before Easter to a very sparse group I will be back the Sunday after Easter and every other Sunday hence. 5:30 to 6:30 or thereabout. Please come visit. No cost but parking is an issue.
Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars. And if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason, they aren’t going to become first ministers or presidents and they aren’t going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers -- for no reason. It’s simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.
And did you all see the “pink moon” last week?
I leave you with a grin and a chuckle.
Mayor Brial Blad of Pocatello, Idaho, is credited with “saving the bacon.” He recently convinced the city council that a man’s 175 – pound pig should be allowed to remain with him in his home because the pig was a pet and not livestock.
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