I don't know who I am.
It's quiet silly since I spend so much time alone with myself.
But who exactly am I?
I write. I like to write plenty of things-poetry and stories but am I really a writer? From what I see, everyone who writes anything is one, but am I? Am I good at it? Am I wasting my time- am I really wasting time on what ten strangers and two family members see. Is everything just in pity?
I love it though! I love being in control of my own stories an worlds. I love finding new things to say and think. I love it but who reads it? Is there a point to writing to an empty audience of people just scrolling passed? I hope there is- and I've been patient in being seen too. But to be honest I feel like Homer slowly slinking back into the bush as time passes by. Am I a writer? I can write... Am I a good one? That's really up to those ten people to decide... However, I am hopeful.
As a young child I suffered from nightmares. I woke up screaming or crying fairly often. This lasted until my mind kicked in with self-defense mechanisms and I stopped remembering any dreams at all. But the nightmares I had back then were often re-occurring, and I remember them well. I never told anyone what those nightmares were--I suppose it was too hard to explain as a little child. When the subject came up once at home while I was a teenager, I described to my family one of those re-occurring nightmares: the one I hated most...
...A dark room is, for a child, a frightful thing. It is terribly easy to imagine that all the things we fear are hiding in the darkness of that room. But think, then, of a dark room with only one light hanging from a ceiling you cannot see. And this light is not the light of day, nor of the silvery moon, nor is it a light full of warmth or comfort. This is a sterile light that does nothing but remind you of needles and shots. It fails to illuminate the dark, but turns your attention all the more to the shadows of the room, wherein death lurks.
Death, yes. I was terrified by death when I was little. Perhaps because I'd seen it. And so I have no doubt that death was indeed hiding in the room of my nightmare, though it made no appearance.
Instead, there was a counter-like table underneath the sterile light. Several men stood around the table in white coats, passing eggs from hand to hand. At either end of the table the eggs were put into large egg-crates stacked on the ground. As this scene unfolded before me, the men's hands would suddenly begin moving faster and faster. Faster. Faster still. Until their hands and the eggs they handled were all but a blur.
And it was at this point that I woke up either screaming or crying, or both...
Now, this may seem to you to be utterly ridiculous. A nightmare? You might ask, snickering. Certainly my family thought it rather silly. And yet, I can tell you truthfully that this was a nightmare, and it haunted me.
First there was the darkness and all that lived in it. Then there was the light that failed to pierce the shadows and brought with it a feeling reminiscent of the feeling of being unloved. And then, of course, there were the strange, silent, unknown men who wore sterile coats and whose legs seemed to blend with the darkness of the room. Lastly there was the work being done--fragile eggs passed from hand to hand and put into crates at an ever-increasing speed.
Tell me, you who snicker--mind, I do not blame you--, when you were a child what did you long for the most? What did you fear the most?
Perhaps you've never pondered this before.
But I've observed that children long to be loved more than anything, and to feel that they are loved. They most fear all that is inconsistent or seems to threaten their safety.
A lack of consistency is, for a child, a most terrifying thing. The feeling of being in danger or the promise of some pain to come is also a most frightening thing to face. And more than anything, a child longs to be loved and it is the feeling of being unloved that is the source of many, if not most, of a child's tears. And the feeling of being unloved is akin to that of being lost.
What child is not afraid of being lost?
Do you see now how such a dream was nightmarish for me?
I could not help but feel somehow that I was one of those thin-shelled eggs, unlovingly passed from hand to hand, threatened by the darkness, ignored by the light, fragile beyond belief and in increasing danger of being shattered and discarded...
This dream has never returned--no, not even when I began to remember dreams again after I entered high school.
Perhaps because it no longer has the power to paralyze me with fear.
For this time around I would not wake up in tears, but with a smile and a sigh--relieved; because I know now that all that is shattered is not necessarily lost.
I swallow it down,
a paralyzing potion,
an elixir of exhaustion.
And I sleep.
Only to sweat,
In the dark.
Then it creeps in,
That haunting shadow.
It comes at night to feed
on my dreams.
I wake to a reality
I reach beside me
To touch an empty space.
The sheets have gone cold
And I am frightened.
Did the shadow steal my dreams?
The tranquil what-ifs of my slumber,
Replaced by terrorizing and taunting darkness.
A swinging pendulum,
Hypnotizing me to stay,
Trapped behind my eyelids.
I am afraid.
I am not alone when I close my eyes.
I am alone when I wake.
It is ironic
one can be,
starts to fuel
The bird watcher
The 40-something-year-old man heard a noise outside, a muffled screech of sorts. A barn owl perhaps? He peered through his binoculars at the figure in the distance. His face wobbled in bitter disappointment. Not an owl. But he was up anyways, so he watched the girl's rape.
Don’t remember this
Please don't remember this
You were my last regret
So you have to promise to forget
You always wanted to paint these walls
You hated those old faded prints
Well baby I painted the town red
Say there was a murder, say it was a spree
Just promise you'll say it wasn't me
Don't dwell on it darling
There was nothing you could do
Some dreams die young,
And some are never born at all
So I'm sorry
That I just couldn't be
But please don't remember this
Don't let it weight you down
I'm not worth your frown
I didn't want you to see me cry
So instead I let you see me bleed
And I didn't think that I was hurting you
When I was trying to hurt me
I wonder how much you must hate yourself,
To have so much left for me.
I was trapped by 4 walls
A dingy bathroom stall
And I was shaking violently
But my sobs hit silently
My nails dug into my skin
So deep you can still see the imprint
He said what's wrong with me
I was tempted to roll up my sleeve
But I stared ahead, I disengaged
While he yelled at me, voice full of rage
Because I'm such an ungrateful child
I treat my parents like crap, I'm so entitled
He said I have everything, my life's a dream
He doesn't know it's falling apart at the seams
PoetsINPrison - A Year On
PoetsIN is more than a company, it’s a movement. One that aims to rehabilitate and aid mental wellbeing through the power of words. For the past year, we have been working in HMP Peterborough, UK, working hard to fine-tune our creative writing workshops.
The following piece is written by one of our service-users. She joined us on week one of the program and is still working with us today. We couldn’t be prouder of the progress she has made.
* * *
It's been one hell of a fantastic year!
For the past 12 months, I have been involved in a creative writing group run at HMP Peterborough. When I first started, I felt shy and uncomfortable.
I've always had a passion for writing, but I never felt I actually had any skill.
Through PoetsIN and the tasks and challenges set, I've not only found I have a talent and flair for prose, I have also found my voice.
My self-esteem has soared and now I feel like the sky's the limit.
Poetry - there was no way I was going to enjoy that.
True life - I never had the urge to tell my story.
Fiction - Didn't think I could put down my ideas on paper.
Yet a year later, I excel.
For me, learning new techniques and styles of writing has helped me to express my feelings, deal with the unknown, and beat my demons of self-harming.
Oh, I dip in and out of these negative, dark places; I wouldn't be human if I didn't. But the gaps of desperation and feelings of hopelessness are few and far between.
All of the work that is posted online on my behalf gets the most amazing feedback - of which I get a copy.
The words I read from my readers bring on more encouragement, tips, and advice than I ever thought I'd get. I expected criticism and belittling words at my perceived failures. I get the opposite of both.
I have now got a book deal, the chance of a lifetime. To write a novel and get it published is a heck of a challenge and I'm loving every second of it. The opportunities on offer to me, push and drive me towards working hard to get my parole.
Before all of this, I couldn't have cared less about a future I never thought I had
I'm now in a different prison, and through the grace of the gods, I can still write and get my work over to you.
I finally realise that I am worth more than rotting away behind bars. I have a purpose and can share with the world all that I can offer.
Every day I thank Sammie and Paul for coming into HMP Peterborough. I thank those who are dedicated to reading my words each week.
Every task I get, I put my all into it. I sit at my table, day in, day out, planning the next page, the next thought I can put on paper.
No longer does the razor blade speak for me upon my skin. The pen in hand calls me day and night.
I have been given a wonderful chance here and I have embraced it with open arms.
Bring on the tasks; let me enthral you with my mind.
No matter how cramped my hand gets from all of the writing, I will still go on. Because I am someone of worth.
* * *
We have many residents who boast of their own journeys, along with staff who speak of our successes; we’ll leave you with one that we are most proud of.
PoetsIN have added tangible value to our education department. In the year that they have been delivering the creative writing workshops I’ve seen mental wellness increase, self-harm decrease dramatically, addictions handled, self-worth improve and marked positive changes in the participants’ behaviour and skills in preparation for their release. The measurements they provide are extremely valuable. I highly recommend them.
– Wayne Peters, Director of Education, HMP Peterborough
We aim to make a difference in many different ways. Through our methods, we can increase mental wellness; giving our service users new techniques and coping strategies geared towards depression, anxiety, stress, self-harm, low self-confidence, to name a few.
Whilst delivering the above psychological benefits, we are also teaching core skills; speaking and listening, equality and diversity, communication - both spoken and written, language and grammar, presenting an argument assertively and intelligently, along with appreciation of others' views and more, which all help our service users become more employable, sociable, and able to maintain healthy relationships with those around them. The modular nature of our groups can be tailored in many different situations and scenarios.
To get involved or to make a donation to enable us to reach more vulnerable people, contact us either here via direct message, or at poetsin.com.
those without childhoods
he without clothes,
wearing striped red socks
and trying to bend and twist his limbs back into place
because that's all he knows
('something's wrong with him')
and that's all he's ever been taught to see.
she who is a dreamer,
who sits agains her cell and still
wonders what colour kindness would be,
who still cries when it's dark
because she remembers when she was young
and crying would get her sympathy and food
and, if anything at all, a confirmation
that she still existed,
that people could even see her at all.
he and she and all those other children,
who are nothing more than dead bodies,
with only eyes moving, ticking,
back then forth and dead then dying.
they are just broken things
trying to make themselves whole,
wooden limbs snapped at birth
with instincts that scream run
when somebody tries to touch them
do you think they've ever been hugged before,
been told 'i love you'?
do you think they've ever felt this
'kindness' that they dream about?
do you think they know that the sky is
blue and grey and yellow somedays,
or that sometimes,
when a hand reaches out to them-
it's not to hit them
but instead to comfort them?