My prison pen pal “Jon“, who is serving a life sentence in California for a burglary-related homicide, continues his efforts to grow in self-awareness and spiritual maturity through writing. I thought this recent poem was one of his finest, expressing compassion for his child-self alongside remorse for the flawed path he took as an adult. It’s a simple but deep story that I imagine many troubled young men will recognize as their own.
Of Father, From Prison
I used to smile in wonder
at the barb of the fish hook
and however you managed to get worms
so delicately placed and pierced.
Then even when you showed me how
I still couldn’t do it on my own
and sometimes couldn’t bear to look.
I used to sit and wander
as the landscapes became cities
with people beneath the lights of day.
Drifting by in gusts of winds
of mountaintops and Mayberrys
and cow filled fields and stars.
Watching from the passenger seat
while you drove your precious truck
and I waited for my turn
that had finally never come.
I used to be amazed
at all the grand and well told stories
of the life you really never led.
I realized I never even knew you
when I noticed they were lies.
You were gentle, very quiet
always private and reclusive.
You could fix anything inanimate
yet never repair the troubled minds
of yourself or those around you.
And I can think of all the places
you would take me as I grew.
Leaving us with memories
of decaying and joyless days,
of worms, fish hooks and barbs.
And I would be amazed
if you ever came to know
how very much alike
we’ve finally become.
I do not wander in wonders anymore
but sometimes think of who you are.
You living in your solitude
and me stuck within my own.
Where computers are your company,
while books become my best of friends.
Your prison is in a house
and mine within a cell.
Inside the worlds of our own making,
trapped within our mortal shells.