FREE INDEED … a series

Open Casket

 

He grieves …

Purges his spirit of loss,

chalk lines of stolen time,

finds himself between a mountainous sea

and a tree with a lonesome leaf.

Screams of a bluejay’s confusion pour into his deflated ego,

too many holes for air to hold, holds his breath instead,

imagines the fallen remnants of his quiet struggle

going to his head, attacking him in his bed.

 

He grieves…

Tearfully building a kingdom amid people who would never enter,

saw the foundation and drifted away safely secure in his success.

He’s blessed, bled dry of toxicity, rearranged his heart’s contents,

now Christ is the center of his process.

No longer grieves for people,

the delegation of angels left behind their mantle,

a roadmap to their power,

an example of service.

 

He grieves …

The victimizations, poor self relation,

the times his reflection brought sorrow,

time wasted chasing ghosts complicit to his suffering,

scoffing at his weakness.

Beacons led him from soul trafficking to perpetual freedom,

seeks a better covenant, it’s promises sealed in bloodshed.

Stares into the casket flooded with memories of iniquity,

troubled by pain, damages extensive.

 

He grieves …

Because there are so many imprisoned just like he was,

but nothing sets them free.

 

Numbered

 

Some say I’m just a number …

A thumbnail on a manual of offenses too forgotten

amid 23,000 men and women.

How can I measure up to the Scarlett letters,

perpetual judgements of people,

obscene sentences with no incentive to be positive?

Who sees life imprisonment as a corrective measure

when there isn’t a second chance given?

Just pitched into the prison system,

a key broken off until we’re used in some tough-on-crime initiative.

I wonder what my judge would say

if we had a conversation 17 years later…

Would he be adamant to cast me away forever,

would he attribute my change to the same prison system

that tried to break my spirit?

Would he admit he was wrong about his analysis;

calling me evil incarnate,

deeming there nothing salvageable within?

No one sees me ripping at success in daily expressions of love,

counseling the downtrodden,

convincing brothers there is hope in their breath.

Statistics say my recidivism rate is less than

people with a month left, yet,

who broadcasts my Compas Report and Legacy Assessment?

Our nation is in need of prison reform,

but it begins in our homes, continues through education,

extends to our cities and bleeds into our state.

Can you hear the can being kicked by timid politicians

too afraid of their constituents to push for change?

Rather admit in hindsight that things

should’ve been handled differently than to do something substantive,

while people like me watch them drive with no engine,

headed nowhere …

Some say I’m just a number, 3-6-6-2-3-1,

relegated to a lifetime of prison,

where the sun will never rise again.

If they only knew the truth …

 

Glass Ceiling

 

Felt like a movie playing the day he sentenced me …

Time stopped as I laid my head on the table,

tears battered the carpet beneath.

Tears laced the face of my brother,

told me “Don’t cry”,

like life imprisonment wasn’t a good reason.

Still remember that day…

Glad to say the memory still follows me,

words conveyed, but construed as “expedient”, strangely,

everything I promised, I completed.

You see, I’m nothing similar to the miscreant I used to be;

I can be seen engaged in Bible study,

counseling brothers, mediating conflict,

appealing to their humanity.

Questioning the ingrained skepticism

rendering a prisoner stagnant,

combat the pundits who don’t believe opportunity exist.

I sit with them until they envision their own lies diminish

from the war against truth,

until they boldly defy statistics.

The prison system “needs” people like me

as a balancing point,

managing the temperaments they don’t understand.

Entrusted to discreetly calm these wounded spirits,

to help transform the thoughts of these men.

When asked, they pat themselves on the back,

taking credit for my efforts,

all while telling others I’m still a threat.

Every morning presents a challenge;

a decision to wrestle freedom from my captor’s hands,

look beyond the razor wire fences to what truly lies ahead.

A forest, dense with life,

growing unrestricted,

affecting the viewer with limitless pictures of blessings replenished.

Endless fuel for my journey over ranges of mountains;

some climbed for preparation, others for restoration,

yet others mastered for the purpose of strengthening my legs.

 

Cause I’ll never tire …

 

20 hour days struggling to reach others before they suffer,

some days I feel my harvest hasn’t reaped enough.

Reaching after the goals I’ve set

while battling disappointments,

proudly admitting this grind gets tough.

Drawing from the inspiration of people that broke through;

the Roderick Bankstons, the Alice Johnsons,

the Myon Burrells, the Cyntoia Browns,

all found themselves crashing through their glass ceilings.

What did they do when their own strength couldn’t accomplish it?

When assistance seemed so unlikely?

How did they fight when they were too tired to swing?

What kept their hearts from breaking?

Tearfully fatigued, I remember the day he sentenced me,

“Don’t cry” echoing, the haters retreating,

because I’ll never stop beating until shards of glass fall upon me.

 

One day, they’ll ask how I disgraced the impossibility,

how I’ve been set free …

 

The Climb

 

Saw a frog climbing a wall, so I stopped to watch it,

amazed by its blending in with its surroundings.

Gave me its history, how it previously almost made it to the top,

but plunged to the ground, but here it is, still climbing. . . . .

Saw two other frogs sitting at ground level, content with being stationary,

happy with people feeding them, but they weren’t attractive. . . . .

 

Saw the profundity in this moment,

correlated it to my life and reassessed my own movements.

Inspired by this amphibian who never gave into its predicament,

never gave up when it was knocked to the ground, after all the effort it put in.

It just rested and hopped back to the wall, and began to climb again.

 

The frog’s unwillingness to accept its current position lit another fire under me,

encouraged me to keep climbing,

keep rising,

keep fighting until I’m one day free.

 

If I never see the top of what I fought so valiantly for,

then at least I can say I died trying.

In some ways, that frog is me!

 

 

Front Lines

 

All my life, I stood on the front lines ready to fight….

For a family that fractured before I was 5, a disaster by the time I was 9,

my pillow became the dam that didn’t flood my mattress,

so that became victory in my eyes.

Challenged authority as I battled the majority of those around me….

Composed of people hating my guts for striving to achieve excellency,

battered me mentally for being smart, 

then physically for being meek.

Fought my way in and out of the neighborhoods I inhabited;

it was either play rabbit or rabbit punch,

sometimes I’d punch and run, 

maybe stomp one before they jumped in.

Befriended the enemy, became dependent on safety,

so I relented just enough.

The fight for dominance became a chess match,

so before we moved again, I went from bottom feeder to leader,

from hated to loved.

 

All my life, I stood on the front lines, ready to fight….

For love that abandoned me, 

gave me inferiority issues, overcompensating so they wouldn’t leave,

tried to be everything so they’d see I’m worth keeping.

Tattooed my low self-esteem to my sleeve,

wondering why they mistreated, 

unaware that my body language made me open season.

Felt if I fought and forgave, if I’d travel barefoot in the desert,

they’d care enough about sacrifices to stay.

Mistakenly thought a war fought for the name of love

would grant me my soulmate,

but it only stood in my way.

I learned that love isn’t the battle I thought it was,

real love is gifted, not something I had to jump off a cliff

to prove I’m worthy of it, nor is it something that will leave me stripped.

It’s the presence of God manifested through interactions of his people,

something that’s freely given, 

but here I stood, ready to fight for it…..

 

All my life, I stood on the front lines, ready to fight….

Until the word of God showed me that He’d fight for me

if I shall hold my peace,

If I’d seek His kingdom first, He’s add everything I desire unto me.

The battle was never mine to begin with,

so how could I have victory when I haven’t trusted this war to him,

or receive a promise in a land He hasn’t sent me?

Seeing my folly made me stop fighting for family and love, 

because I never had to fight for these.

He ordains family to spring forth,

welcoming me into their embrace, 

not something I have to climb out of holes to receive.

I stand on the front lines,

my heart open, glad the war has ended….

 

Remission

 

His potent flowage of thoughts begin to siphon his focus,

glow where darkness has led him into unknown lands,

where demands upon his patience command him to stand silent,

he learns the terrain around him.

His eyes behold the treacherous motives of lonely hearts,

desperate overtones of growling tummies,

becoming a chorus of only the gifted in solitude,

box of emptiness in their hands.

He plans but he’s out of touch with his inner man, so he fails,

hailed a hero but the nails that have driven him into the earth

have failed to give him peace.

He sees grief, he sees dying, 

he sees the eyes of his comrades lying inside 

of darkened lids of fatigue.

Doesn’t see the blessing under such misery, 

question the fairness of him being released.

So many are afflicted permanently,

so what makes him more deserving of healing?

Everything he prayed for is happening,

but he’s looking at the ones that aren’t as fortunate….

A melody of a flat line sends shivers down is spine,

a message of a white flag lifted in defiance.

The hospice he was sentenced to life in, slated to die in,

became the place he heard the most coveted word: Remission.

He departs conflicted, seeing a new world through old lenses,

blessed but discouraged…..

 

 

Forgotten

 

I am forgotten….

Among the people too weak or sickly to see me as special,

in the circles of toxicity, along the pathways of the diseased.

Amnesia becomes them, 

their presence becomes as thin as the air on these mountains I climb,

conditioned to breathe where others have died trying to reside here.

My tears recycled into the water I ingest,

the world is confounded….

I smile while the world expects me to be stressed,

I blessed when they curse me and pray for my death.

I comfort those who never held my best interests,

forgiveness is my weapon, a weapon that prosper them…

 

I am forgotten….

Among the forsaken, along the highways I’ve been saved from,

Separated from the tares the enemy planted,

my wheat can grow obstructed.

No weeds to choke out my success, of keep my bound to their disbelief,

no longer grieves me to destruction when people leave,

maybe, I’ll be better of without them.

 

I am forgotten….

Among the ones that have gracefully bowed out, 

along the avenues of wasted moments,

only at the beginning of gaining in the face of losses?

Placed my faith in the purpose of my Father,

Who both gives and takes away,

what remains is sufficient and well worth the cost.

 

I’ve lost nothing by being forgotten,

so why does it prick my soul sometimes, 

to walk around unacknowledged?

 

A question I wish was among the forgotten…..

 

 

Gunshots

 

Gunshots….Do you hear the gunshots?

Clotless blood floods the sewer, gets stuck in the drains,

the brains of many dead men washed away.

Dead men?

Men used to be the main victim, 

now women and children fill the pits as magazines extend…

10 extends to 17, 17 to 30, 30 to 50, 

depending on the fear that extends to every man.

 

Gunshots….Do you hear the gunshots?

Lots of bullets dislodge life from people,

projectiles litter our city streets, our passionate anger feeds the cemetery,

all while the gun has no enemies.

We kill, but our humanity dies with the murdered,

never knew it would unearth the existence 

of the walking deceased.

 

Gunshots….Do you hear the gunshots?

The progression of a child’s nonchalance to tragedy is damaging,

branding their brains to accept violence as reality.

Grow up holding the guns of their elders,

without the knowledge they possess,

made instruments of violence instead of pillars of success.

Fed lies as destructive as pistols tucked in the waistbands,

they fire at the wrong targets, innocence becomes another casualty.

 

Gunshots…Do you hear the gunshots?

Do you hear the souls drowning in the bloodbaths of mass casualties,

afflicted patients fill hospital beds,

a tearful shriek of a mother crying over her dead?

Does the sound echo into the hearts of men,

abound the the minds of them who are haunted by thoughts of death?

Caught between the crossfire of conflict,

the recipient of something unintended,

they question God’s existence, a funeral procession gets their attention.

 

Gunshots….Do you hear the gunshots?

Or have you gone deaf?

Marshall Jones is a 38 year old man on a lifelong journey of bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God. The author of "A Raven's Meal" (RoseDog Books), a poetry collection, he aspires to target the grey areas, and the people who are terribly misunderstood by society. Believing that everyone deserves a voice, he not only shares his testimony, but he also tries to use his gifting to share other people's experiences as well. He writes from the prison system that has housed his body for 17 years, but also from the place that has been the catalyst to his freedom.