Sunday, August 29, 2010

Letters to a Future Death Row Inmate, Part 7

by Reinaldo '”QBA” Dennes #999248

Part 6 can be seen here

Dear X,

It’s about coming and going. It’s all about the choice you make, are you coming or going? To come is to stay the same, in reality this is not true as we all change, what I mean is to choose silence, inactivity, quieting the mind. This is the best choice you can make, better than worldly wisdom, regardless of what subject.

To know thy true self is the greatest achievement you can make, for me this has been true as I have obtained academic wisdom also. Education will produce a better choice, still better is the choice to know thy divine essence. Why fill the mind with knowledge that is ever changing and never true. In silence, I have learned, remembered, what cannot be taught in books, experience supersedes knowledge. The experience in the spirit that is omnipotent in all subjects, whatever you seek can never be equaled to academic knowledge. I have learned that life is an illusion in this reality that your awareness resides in the moment. What is seen does not exist, but to truly believe this one has to make a choice to know thyself. Self is not found in the senses, pleasure, nor fulfillment of your hearts desires. Self is found in the silence and light. Not in the music of the radio but the music between the notes.

Choose to know thyself and you will make this time the most important and memorable of this life. To break the cycle of perpetual reincarnation and return to full awareness is your only goal that will wake you up. Like in a dream, all is real until you realize you are dreaming, then in this lucid state of awareness the world around you disappears. So it is true in the physical world once you become aware of whom you are, this world will fade away into the nothingness from which it was created.

This world is a dream, spirit doesn’t dwell in matter nor matter can contain spirit. They are contradictions, opposites, you choose in which to dwell in. I no longer wish to come or return to life. I am going home.

Reinaldo '”QBA” Dennes #999248

My website (link no longer valid)

© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Letters to a Future Death Row Inmate, Part 6

Admin note: This entry has been removed at the request of Thomas.

Part 5 can be seen here

© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.

Poetry by George Niven Wilder, Jr.

Route Ninety-One
By George Niven Wilder Jr.

Three days of happiness plenty of fun,
Twenty thousand at Route Ninety-One. 
Country music festival dancing with love,
Purple concert bracelets and God Almighty above.
September Twenty Nine, Thirty and October One.
People from around the world in the sun,
Ten zero-five PM there’s silence! No fun,
Sounded like fireworks, it’s bump stock guns.

People screaming-yelling-running in fear,
Bodies dropping, blood everywhere,
Thousands of slugs, spraying in the air,
Shooter on the thirty second floor stairs,
Mandalay Bay — plenty of people say,
Death came!! This night to stay,
He rained into the concert anyway,
Down from MGM/Luxor Pyramid tonight.

Running wild-scared people shot and crying,
Screaming!! A man shot bullets flying,
Young and old, military to fireman and policewomen died
Shooter executed himself in his head!!
Lifeless bodies, bleeding on the cold ground,
No more music — not even a sound
Terrified people hiding in Las Vegas town
Fifty-Eight white crosses standing down
Along Route Ninety-One flowers and candles
On the sacred hallowed ground

Marjory Stoneman-Douglas Building 12
St. Valentine’s Day 2018
By George Niven Wilder Jr.

Je-sus Christ was there
Listening to their fear,
Yelling-screaming is everywhere,
Je-sus was truly there.

Fourteen teenagers — were young kids
Never will they open their eyelids,
Coach Chris took the bullet slugs,
The Shooter was a young beast thug,
Je-sus took them by their hands
Before their bodies hit the cold land.

Seventeen innocent young people died, 
At building Twelve Marjory Stoneman Douglas…
February fourteenth Twenty Eighteen for love
Innocent people laying in their blood
Je-sus sent them to the Kingdom above

Seventeen lives, in the Promise Land
Because Je-sus took all Seventeen by the hand
They all stood above their bodies in Spirit,
AR-15, sounded of plenty of shells,
The shooter was sent straight into hell.

Memories of Military Women
1990 to present
By George Niven Wilder Jr.

Adrenaline surges through their bodies,
As faith holds their life and soul,
Visions stained with blood dripping head to toe,
Memorizing the screams from young to old.
Witnessing their horror! And murders as they unfold
She’s a walking bomb at twelve this needs to be told
Smoke fills the air, explosions shake the earth,
Bodies left trembling, human lives dying births.
Flesh smelling of death scent fills the air,
Exposed bones and dead bodies lay everywhere.
Toddlers and young children are cut down without haste
Teenaged girls strapped with C-4 never are we safe
United States Army forces lives being thrown away
Beirut, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, a real waste,
She shot the enemy, his blood drips off her face
Abrams and Humvees attack on the desert race
Lord save them from that terrible fate.
You’re numb inside, with your eyes going blind
Watching her holding a device, is she losing her mind?
Remington M-forty A-one pulled trigger? Life’s unking
Blackhawks, Vipers, Raptors, Hornets, Nighthawks,
She’s a death machine flying for Army Air corps
K-bar sharpen enough to cut their throats
Her Bretta forty-five put a hold in his face
Smoke fills the air. Men stopped and stared, 
The United States women choices
Are the United States Army deathly forces

George N. Wilder 2603912
Orange County Men's Jail
550 N. Flower Street
Santa Ana, CA 92703-2361
I wrote on Sandy Hook, Parkland, Fires in California. I write with feelings.  I’m an advocate against gun violence, drugs, vapors, etc…

Friday, August 20, 2010

Art and Poetry by Kenneth M. Key

By Kenneth M. Key

Slaveship prison cells
Now dry docked.
In a country that's not my own.
This country is off thee.

Slaveship prison cells
Of my ancestors slaveships
Bodies stacked on top of
Each other
The living dead standing
Upright can't breath!

Carried away from our homes
For our labor and our worth.
Chowed by our circumstances,
Created by the institutions
Who created convict slave laws,
To lease laws, now to new
Jim Crow laws.

Living in this 13th amendment
In these slate States
Not yet free, in this
21st century, living in
These Slaveship prison cells

And the voices of those
Who were here before me
Reaches up from the concrete
Floors, designed by the
Institutions of racism
That now and slave you & me

As we stand steep in
This 13th amendment slavery
In these Slaveship prison cells
Not free! Not free! Not free!

We are Gods
ByKenneth M. Key

Walk to the revelation
That I was created to create
In the image of the Divine
There's no debate

And as I move fluently upon
These etheral plains, like he
Who created all and spoke
it into being.

Let there be thought, light
And peace. Let him, let God,
Let me, who I am, who
could argue with that.

Created in his image to create
In the image, which is the image
Of HE/ME, my seat, my son
Yet another God upon the others
Of the divine.

Who are seen and creating and certainly we are gods
like I and the many other
wonders of the world,
we are, ye are, Gods.

Time - Doing Time
By Kenneth M. Key

Time doing time,
Yet always counting time
Yet time is undefined.

Get my time is in
The realm of reality
But not mine, foe
what we see are
visions of unbelievability
Unfathomable impossibilities of life without the
possibility of parole.

Time just doing time
Always counting, never
Standing still moving,  fluently, bedtime undefined
In this matrix of life
without the possibility
of parole 888 years beyond understanding of time
undefined yet defined as time.

Time assured by time givers
Of time that you or I
can do. Time that so
Lengthy, despite standing still, not enough time
to spend with friends
or loved ones or hold
your child or just be you.

Never enough time
But all we have is time,
What a contradiction! Time doing time.

By Kenneth M. Key

Some call it by its
Shorten version

So deadly, so menacing
And so many in our
Society not taking
it seriously.

The fear of the unknown
Takes your breath away
Can't breathe
But faith in God
Is the key
Now breathe!

By Kenneth M. Key

The fears unknown, loss of breath
Faith the key, God heals.

I Remember the Kisses
By Kenneth M. Key

I remember all the kisses.
The kisses of kissing you.
Kisses to say I love you,
Kisses to say I need you.
Kisses that moved us both beyond words.

Yeah! I remember the kisses.
Kisses that washed your tears away.
Kisses that were used to say I’m sorry.
Kisses we kissed when we made up.
Kisses to assure you I wasn’t going anywhere.
Kisses filled with passion as we started anew.

I remember the kisses.
Kisses that warmed us through and through.
Kisses that said I’m glad you’re home.
The kisses that said Bye.

I remember the kisses
Kisses that were simply because
I enjoyed kissing you.
Yeah! I remember the kisses long
gone, and wishing right now that
I was kissing you.

Each Morning
By Kenneth M. Key

Each morning I’m awaken
By this particular bird
Chirp, chirp, chirpping,
Like look at me, yeah his
Chirpping is a subtle reminder
I’m not free!

And with each morning his
Chirp, chirp, chirpping
Sound like don’t you wish you could
Fly away with me - don’t you wish you
Could be free?
Chirp, chirp, chirpping like he’s
Making fun of me.

Yea! Each moring that bird
that flys free, reminds me of
my reality, serving out this other
Death Penalty - Now life without
The possibility of parole.
Never to fly free as I listen to the
Chirp, chirp, chirpping of the
Bird who’s free not me.

Each morning I’m awakened,
To be humiliated and the subtle
Attempts of emasculation, despite
My humbleness and morning salutations
And constant reminders of that bird’s
Chirp, chirp, chirping
Reminding me - Certainly not free.

Each morning awaken by racist
Guards out to get me, with particular
Ordering - take those linens donwn, get that
Out the bars, remove that towel and
That bird chirp, chirp, chirpping.

Yeah! Each morning and a constant
Reminder not free! Each morning
Of the same old bird

Chirp, chirp, chirpping

Just Masterbation
By Kenneth M Key

People having conversations about Mass Incarceration and ridding the system of this 13th Amendment enslavement.
The narrative has lasted much longer then the Intelectual Masterbation provided at each presentation of those who keep coming and coming over our situation.

As they state excited to be here and part of the conversation, while we die off, because it’s just conversation.


Now our sons, daughters and grandchildren are in the same situation, while they who claim to have the solutions continue to masterbate, yet we’re still NOT FREE!

Generation after Generation while they continue in their Intellectual Masterbation and poets
Like Nikky Finney saying “we must lead with love.”

But it gets lost in the Masterbation, the desire to be seen and heard and that’s the Climax, but STILL NOT FREE -


In My Mind
By Kenneth M. Key

In my mind I’m free,
But prison bars keep me
Anchored in this reality
Of time, not free, just
In my mind.

Tine plus time equals life without any hope of being free, restored
Or part of society.

Inhumanity, racism and
Prejudices keeps 13th
Amendment enslavement in place.

Against those black, yellow and brown, those of color
That’s me and many more and that’s reality I see in my mind.

Friendship I Can’t Imagine
By Kenneth M. Key

Friendship I can’t imagine a day without you. But yet I’ve had too, you’ve been gone eems like an eternity:

And year after year I remain  here without you near to share.

My pain, my joy, and my dreams.
The times that I do endear, or
the moments of despair without
You by my side.

Yet the friendship I can’t imagine

Has come true.

To You, I Say Thank You
by Kenneth M. Key

Compassion, to you, I
say thank you.
For if it wasn’t for your
outstretch hands
Don’t know what I would do

For no one but you could
Have taken upon the burdens
Of the unforgiven, the lepards
Now convicted and exile, but
Not silent.

Compassion, if it had not
Been for you, I would
No longer smile, laugh
Or cry.

To understand that
Beyond walls without
Windows, that a world
Cries for the prisoenrs and the rejected of the world.
To you I say Thank you.

Compassion Thank you
For extending yourself
To the multitude who until you shine your light
Upon them, didn’t know
What to do.

Compassion it’s you
That resurrects the soul and
Bring the dead back to the living and give them purpose again

Non-judgmental extending
Love, understanding and words of comfort too!
Compassion to you I say
Thank you!

How Does Your Bio Read?
by Kenneth M. Key

My name is Kenneth, yet, I’ve been
I used to be a dreamer, no longer
dreamt of.
I’m resurrecting, yet still not seen.
I’m human who likes other made mistakes.
I laugh, because it’s good for the heart.
I feel, because I understand the
pain that I have caused.
I cry because I understand what it feels like to have something precious
taken from you.

The Other Death Penalty/LWOP
by Kenneth M. Key

The other death penalty means
Death no possibility of  ever

Steel cold steel unchanged
time and life continues fluent
while we stand transfixed in time.

Time equals silence
as we all yell! To be free
From bondage and 13th amendment

Life, life and more life imposed
Time impossible for any to do
yet given to you.

Orders yell, stand, sit, spread’em
time equals humiliation =
annihilation = life without the
possibility of parole.

Haiku of Sorts
by Kenneth M. Key

Cold steel gray bars
Against warm blue skies
imprisoned and going through
the whys?

As life goes by and bye
Death by incarceration
And we cry and sigh
Of never paroling sentenced
To life

Steel cool gray landscape
against warm blue skies
unchanging and life is fluent

as it goes by and bye.

Mass Incarceration
by Kenneth M. Key

Mass Incarceration =
Defamation =
Humiliation =
Mental Castration
an entire generation =
character assassination =
Families caught
in the media =
generation after generation.

To a nation that enslave
us, that never wanted
us to be free. =

Modern day Jim Crow
alive and well and this
is what Mass Incarceration
looks like. =

The final hour before
the clock tolls =
The taking of another
Lethal injection,
and for others
Life without the possibility
of Parole.


Incarceration what does it mean 
by Kenneth M. Key

Incarceration, what does it mean?
It means, an entire race under
and character Assassination.

Guilty until Proven innocent
whatever their situation.

It means 13th Amendment
enslavement, for the purpose
of punishment and labor
of an entire generation.

As their families face denigration,
demobilization, and emasculation.


Everyone subject to Humiliation
still dependent on
a race that enslave us,
Modern codeword for it
Mass Incarceration

What does it mean?
That our sons and daughters
will continue to be exploited.

In this land where we're
not free, and there's no
such thing as liberty,
Did I mention no
And the Home of the brave are cowards
who bask in the clothing of Honor
and fair Play.

While murdering our
children, separating
our families and
all in the name of Justice
and democracy.

Incarcerating us at a
alarming rate, 2 million
and counting to date.

Incarceration what does it mean?
fraud perpetrated upon the
people, always guilty
before proven innocent,
Can't you see?

Black men killed
while driving Black in
their Benz's and Caddilac.

Walk don't run or face
the chance of being attack
just for being black in
the wrong hood.

Mass Incarceration
what does it mean?
your chances lessen
depending on your ZipCode.

And if not killed by your own
in the hood, then the process
food is sure to get you,
Leading in
High Blood Pressure,
diabetes, and Heart
attacks – Gone!

Leading killers in the Hood
and we don't get that
and when incarcerated
increases 10x’s

Mass Incarceration, what does
it mean? It means your wife
your mother, your family will
be stress and you will contribute
in the long run to their DEATH.
But you don't see that
and that's what Mass Incarceration means.

by Kenneth M. Key

Compassion to you I
say Thank you!
For if it wasn't for your
outstretch hands
don't know what I would do.

For no one, but you could
have taken upon the burdens
of the unforgiven, the lepards
now convicted and exile,
but not silent.

Compassion, if it had not
been for you, I would
no longer smile, laugh
or cry.

To understand that
beyond these walls
without windows
that a world cries.
For the prisoner and
the rejected of
the world.
To you I say Thank you.

Compassion Thank you
for extending yourself
to the multitude, who
until you shine you light
upon them, didn't know

Compassion it's you that
resurrects the soul and
bring the dead back to the
living and give us purpose again

Non-judgmental, extending
Love, understanding and words of comfort too!
Compassion to you I say
Thank you!

To be honest had
given upon you

Then you showed up
through the spirit of
People I never knew.

Who said you're good
enough, let you journey
of redemption begin as
you make amends.
To you
I say Thank you.


Mass Incarceration Means
Kenneth M. Key

Mass Incarceration Means,
no favorite foods upon your plate.
no apples, oranges, or grapes.

Three hots and a cot
state bread, and cookies
pissed on by the mice
that roams.

Government expired
vegetables, mash potatoes
Genetically modified soy
in every shape imaginable.

Dis-ease, its Symptoms
masked by Roll aids and
Zantacs and milk of
magnesium, and the
cancer is masked until
its 4th stage.

And men, well they
wait for the next chow
bell to start the cycle

No matter how many are
killed, with no concern
for what mass Incarceration means.

- END -

I Dream About You Today
By Kenneth M. Key

I dream about you today
Like all my yesterdays
Looking forward to my tomorrows

I dream a dream that wasn’t real
For you were gone some thirty
years ago
Lost to me in the time gone by.

I dream about you today
That I got a letter in the mail
long overdue, lost in the storms
of time, finally to make its

You said you still loved
me, but had to move on.
Couldn’t be anchored down
To Life without the possibility
of parole. Saw no future
in that, and it was true

I dream about you today
that I was still there, eyes
meeting eyes, and love vibrating
and sensing without words

But the guard rapped
the bars and the dream
I dream about you today
was lost like every
moment in my day to
the reality of doing Life without the
possibility of parole.

What If?
By Kenneth M. Key

What if I was to go
before the Great Throne
of Forgiveness, be forgiven
before I died
would you still judge me,
would you forgive me or
would you still hate me
count me unworthy
no doubt
still stain
unforgivable in your eyes
looked upon with the same eyes
of hatred, prejudgment and
malice in your heart, you’ve
been trained to use by society
their criminals, irredeemable
unworthy, let them die.

Yet each week you enter
your places of worship
with outstretched hands

Tainted with hate, prejudices
and more blood then is
upon my very own hands

For it drips from your
So visibly, as you parade
in the illusion of fellowship
but not loving, or forgiving
as you’ve all been commanded
to do
pretending, going through the motions
always judging, void of heart
yet to reach out to me or others
yet making no contributions
beyond superficial, claiming
to be blessed and highly favored
You Hypocrite
busy in your hypocrisy, what if I
was you and you were me what if? what if?

Would You Let Me?
By Kenneth M. Key

If I feel on my knees
To find my peace
To finally be free
Would you let me?

Or would you still ridicule me
Prosecute me
Keep the monster alive
Despite it having died
Resurrected to be something else

Would you continue to buy
Into society lies that a man
Never changes, can’t be redeemed,
Can make no changes from
The inside

If I fell on my knees
To find my peace
to finally be free
could you, my readers
forgive me
would you let me embrace my forgiveness
be a part of my redemption,
to finally be free
From what haunts me,
Keeps me
tied down by the
anchors you’re provided me
would you let me?

By Kenneth M. Key

I would like to think that
among my peers, that I was
a poet,
a wordsmith
splitting words smoothly and
fluently with such agility
that they cast thoughts in the
aftermath of their taking off
My audience who were seated
and patiently wondering and
moved at every turn of my
next word
But truthfully
I’m just a man expressing
his thoughts upon the ethers
of time, hoping the vessels
will receive these messages
in kind, that I bring for
the need of a mental
elevation in our liberation
From what enslaves us
In these 13th amendment
Prison Plantations.
I would like to think
I’ve caused you to
and with that the
process has begin

Just Another Year
By Kenneth M. Key

Well it’s another year
and many seem to be filled
aith this
Happy New Year cheer
But I can assure you
It’s just another year
of showers that never clean
of birds that never sing
of time reminding us we’re not

887 more years to go
Just another year
of time reminding you of time
you can’t possibly do
of food with no taste
of smelling another man’s waste
of living with men with multiple
Of cell houses so cold, even with
the heat on high, and you fully
clothed, you won’t be warm.
Of pest, bugs ad mice
keep men company at night
Of living in a prison Industrial
of clothes that don’t fit,
or keep you warm in the
winter or allow you to
be cool in the summer.
Just another year
the sentence of Life without
the possibility of parole

Just another year.

By Kenneth M. Key

Are they guilty
Guilty as sin
As sin is guilty
Of robbing
Of raping
Of taking from them
Of disrespecting and victimizing them
But if the guilty repents
And attempts to make amends
My question to you is when
Does forgiveness truly begin?
Like the love, the blood
Of the unconditional, because
They are guilty of hiding and
Not being true
Guilty of covering it up 
Because of the sickness
That hides, resides inside
of them
Yes! Guilty.

Freedom I Waited
By Kenneth M. Key

Freedom I waited for you
Last night as I closed my eyes,
Waiting, longing, needing to be free

But you never came, only whispers
In the night, saying, eyes looking
Into eyes, you´ll have to stay
A little while longer.

Yet to pay for the unspeakable
Crimes you´ve done, yet to earn
Your freedom, certainly
Not done, resurrecting not
Yet reborn, someday to be 
His son.

And when that happens,
Then FREEDOM, Yes! Freedom
Will surely come.

“Ode to You”
By Kenneth M. Key

I thought about yesterday,
Like all of my yesterdays,
Of all the things I didn´t do
While you were present upon
This earth.
And I realized, as I thought of
You today, I didn´t hold you up
Like the Queen who gave birth
To her King, who had fallen
Yet resurrected
To do what he was destined
To do
On these planes of time
I thought of you today
And I remembered when
My soul had been crushed
And I had been ostracized
You stood by my side 
And said, not  my son,
I thought about you today
Who came to my aid and
Rescued me time and time again
Believed in me, and loved me
To you, I say “Thank you!”
For I owe you a debt of
I can never repay, now 
That you´re gone. But today I
Thought about you and
Everyday, now that you´re
I shall always pay homage
To you.

By Kenneth M. Key

Forever is a place where we live
Live in our minds with things that
We´ve done

Running, yet always remembering
Forever, not able to run, forever
Secretly laying dormant in our
Minds, forever.

Forever can´t be washed away
With distractions,
Or putting on a mask

Forever must be confronted
Or it will never go away
Never become forgiveness
Or Grace from above
But simply being forever
Forever – remaining forever

Dream a Dream
By Kenneth M. Key

I dream a dream last night,
Not like any other, yeah dream
A dream all right.

A dream deferred all right, not free
As the birds in a sunlit sky, flying
Without a care in the world. Or being
Re-united in a world that didn´t
Have a care in the world, that 
I was convicted, lived or died.

Dream a dream of dreaming
A dream, about this prison industrial
Complex , designed to enslave us
Break us, then bury us in the
Fields of this modern day
Plantation reserved for convicts.

Who can´t vote, cross the Stateline
Or have a real occupation, no
No matter how many degrees they´ve 

Talking about a dream deferred
I dream a dream I wish
I wasn´t dreaming, for my dream
Is likened to my reality in vivid
Color, with sound bites, all
Senses engaged.

Yeah, dream a dream 
All right, but wasn´t sleep
I was wide awake.

My Son

The Bugs

Baby Girl

After the Storm

Yah Chai/Shalom


"Hear O'Israel YAH is ONE



Genesis Resurrection



As a Clown Thinkith

No More Tears

Behind the Curtain


Clown with Rose

Clown with Cactus on Head

Clown - Untitled

Lady Clown
Children of the Damn!

Still Life

Carrier of "TWO"


The Shat

(YA-DA) To Know

African Mask Benin

Obama & Pride St.

Shema Yisrael Hear Oh! Israel

Jazz in 3

Interpretation I

Interpretation II

Queen of Sheba

Kenneth M. Key A-70562
Stateville Correctional Center
P.O. Box 112
Joliet, IL 60434
Shalom, my name is Kenneth M. Key 66 years old and inmate of Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois, serving life without the possibility of parole.  I’ve been incarcerated over 34 years.  Who am I?  I’m someone’s son, little brother and father.  As I write this, my own son is six cells down below me.  He is also serving life.  I am an artist. I’m a jailhouse lawyer.  I have a diploma in Personal Psychological Development. I am currently working my Master's Degree through North Park Theological Seminary with certificates in Foundations, Restorative Arts, Transformative Justice and Pastoral Arts. I pray that my work provokes thought, conversation, healing and forgiveness.

Letters to a Future Death Row Inmate, Part 5

by Thomas B Whitaker

Part 4 can be seen here

Greetings, salutations, howdy, Que Rollo, etc, etc. It has been a few months since I last pestered you, so I thought I would check in to see how you were handling things. You should have received a few kites from some of the other men by now, also, as word of a newcomer tends to move pretty quickly around here.

We have a pretty ... uh, “colorful” cast of characters around this place, so before you go about labeling your polestars, take our advice for what it is: a brief paean of compassion and empathy in the midst of a symphony of discontent. Take everything with a hefty grain of salt, is what I am hinting at. Especially everything that I write. Trust, but verify, grasshopper. In your intellectual travels, you may run across a philosopher named AJ Ayer, who has some handy advice that seems to fit very well with what I am saying to you here: a statement is meaningless if we cannot see how it can be verified or shown to be false. There is a small flaw in that statement, but it will only mean something to you if you can identify it for yourself; in any case, from a practical standpoint, the thought seems to have been made for prison-based conversations, and you will find it immensely useful. Almost, I think, as much as our friend Ockhams most potent razor.

I actually showed a copy of the first letter I sent you to my neighbor, and he remarked that he was glad that he didn’t meet anyone like me when he first arrived. He claims the Tao of Thomas is too bitterly cynical, too stark. Maybe. I can actually see his point, but his criticisms of my mode of thinking come accompanied by a certain aftertaste of cognitive dissonance, and I hope you will allow me to briefly explain this to you, and to defend myself at the same time. My neighbor has been a “hoper" now for 14 years. A "hoper" is my term for the men back here who are always voicing their optimisms to everyone, as if vocalizing their dreams were a key component in converting them into reality. There is a whole neo-hippie movement behind changing your reality with positive thoughts, and while there may in fact be some validity to such an ideology, the reality of life on Death Row requires one to downwardly adjust ones expectations. My neighbor has spent the majority of his time here with his eyes either plastered to his window or glued to the pages of his Bible. Every disappointment that has come his way (and there have been many, as there was for me and will be for you) has only pushed him deeper into his daydreams, and into the cancer of reminiscence. I’ve known this man for years now, and I’ve personally seen the Hollow encroach upon the orbs of his eyes, and the way he has slowly withdrawn from everyone. It’s getting to the point now where his existence is almost purely anatomical: he eats, he sleeps, he shits, he breathes, and each exhalation is amongst the last, agonal sighs of that very hope upon which he had rested his sanity. Maybe I am too cynical, but it seems to me that no matter how jaded I get, it’s never enough to keep pace with what the world requires of me. Maybe you can find a middle way, my friend, between his world and my own, and become the bodhisattva of D-Pod, or whatever. Believe me, I’ve tried to be more optimistic, but each failure has caused me to over-compensate to the point that now I pretty much exist in a state of stoic untouchability. It’s no fun here, but at least my life doesn’t feel like a constant wound, and I will never, ever end up like my friend, eli, eli, lama sabacthani-ing his way into the cold nullity of insanity. When I look at him, I can’t help but think that a little dash of cynicism would have done him a lot of good. I weep for him, but I cant save him, and I could never respect him: I only admire people who face the hells they create and refuse to blink. Take that for whatever you think it is worth.

Ok, enough of that, then. Lets go for some practical information, shall we? I’m going to start sending you some legal stuff over the next few months, so that you get a clearer picture of what you have in your future. For now, lets concentrate on things we can do today to improve upon your standard of living. Lets start with the cell itself.

By now you have no doubt figured out that your cell leaks like a sieve. Let me see if I can guess how this went, when you complained about it: first, the officers told you that they couldn’t do anything about a maintenance issue, right? So, you kept bugging them and eventually Officer Beard graced you with his presence, along with that little rat terrier of an SSI he has with him at all times. (And, yeah, that relationship is exactly what it appears to be.) He probably took a look into your cell and told you that he would add your name to a list of cells to be fixed "soon," but that you should grieve the whole business to speed up the process. When you did that, the grievance officer probably wrote that they were "looking into it," and now you are still waiting, yes, watching your back wall turn into a cascade every time it rains. Am I close to the mark? Don’t bother responding; I already know I am. You should have figured out that this passing of the proverbial buck is a form of bureaucratic three-card monte, and you have about as good a chance of having them come to seal your wall as a socialist does being elected governor of Texas. This is an important lesson: you better learn to solve your own problems. This is at the heart of what it means to be a convict, rather than an "inmate" or an "offender." Really, this is a simple fix: take some of the blue state soap, and break it into tiny pieces. Mix this into a paste with water and a touch of toothpaste, and then apply this into what cracks you can identify. You will probably have to do this several times in order to really seal everything up well, but once that stuff dries, its pretty tough. Maintain this by re-applying the paste every few months, just to be safe. Keep writing the grievances, though, as you never know ... maybe one day all of this paperwork will mean something to someone. (Or, maybe, catch on fire and burn this place to the ground. Hey, I am still capable of hope, after all.) And, besides, employees of this most monolithic of man-made altars to inhumanity tend to have much deserved inferiority complexes, so we wouldn’t want to deprive them of whatever cheap, plaster-saint-esque ego-boosts they achieve whilst denying your complaint. See how I look out even for my foes? Haha, no, seriously, document everything, even when it seems to be yet another exercise in learning the depths of futility. It matters more than you think.

Ok, lets see: ah, the sink/toilet combo. You have probably heard by now that these things are built by convicts, and this rumor is actually true. You would think, therefore, that cons would look out for fellow cons, and build the damned things correctly, but you would be mistaken. Despite having to live in cells with these very sinks, the people who fabricate these things somehow, inexplicably, manage to install the spigot upside down the vast majority of the time, so that the water shoots not into the bowl, but up towards your face. I suppose that it is a touch humorous to get a surprise blast to the noggin the first time you press down on the cold water button, but after this initial chuckle, the whole thing gets annoying pretty quickly. Again, we have a very simple fix for this, using common items. (It is important to use common items, because all of these things I am outlining for you are technically contraband, and will be taken during a shakedown. Replaceability is the key word here.) Take a simple commissary pen (28 cents at current rates), and remove the cap and the ink cartridge. First, lets deal with the cap. Remove the little extension that sticks off the cap, the thing that would keep the pen securely attached to your pocket, had you any pockets to attach it to. It should snap right off. Next, hold the cap vertically, and use a razor blade to cut it in half, along the x-axis. You should be able to wedge either piece into the spigot of your sink; this will basically act as a washer for the new spout you are attaching. You might have to sand one end down a bit to make it fit, but this can be easily accomplished by rubbing the plastic along the concrete floor. Once that piece is firmly wedged into the spigot, take the body of the pen and snap it in half, or thereabouts. With either half, slowly start to bend the plastic into a curve; use minimal force, and take your time, or else it will simply break. You are trying to angle the curve so that it shoots the water into the bowl, obviously, so you may have to play around with it until you get the right angle. Once this is done, simply slip the pen body into the cap, and, whala! You have a working sink that wont give you an unintended shower every time you go to wash your hands.

Speaking of watery messes, since you happen to live on one-row, I need to warn you about the sewage system here. See those little brass grates down there on the floor of the run, between you and your neighbor’s house? When refuse gets clogged in the pipes, all the junk that piles up behind the blockage comes spilling up out of those things very, very quickly. Sometimes, this is just an accident, the result of people dumping stuff down the commode that they had no business flushing, like chip bags or anything plastic. Sometimes - oftentimes - this flooding is intentional, the result of someone attempting to re-enact Genesis 7. Waking up in the middle of the night to find two inches of urine, feces, trash and the-gods-know-what-else in your cell is about as disgusting an experience as you are ever likely to have. And, of course, you know it’s going to take forever to get someone from maintenance to come down to unclog the mess. And, of course, they aren’t going to give you anything to clean the mess up with. (Continuing the Genesis reference, the officers are going to have about as much compassion for you as Noah – I’m sorry, the “righteous”, “blameless” Noah - did upon those neighbors of his who kept banging on the door of his ark after the rains started.) At this point, you had better hope you happen to live in a section with someone who is willing to threaten the officers with bodily harm, because this is the only way you are going to get an extra towel and some bippy to clean your house. I’ve always felt that you attract more ants with honey than with vinegar, but, sadly, in this world, honey generally gets you laughed at or ignored. Over the long-term, there are some moderate means of getting a little taste of justice heading your way, using Section 1983 of Title 42 of the US Code. Having said that, you need to recognize that the Prison Litigation Reform Act has seriously cut off your avenues on Civil Rights cases. What little leeway you have left is further reduced by the fact that the judiciary here in the South is extremely conservative, and many of these judges really wouldn’t see much of an issue with you having to live in raw sewage 365 days a year. (Should you decide to make this an issue, however, there is some positive case law on the issue of toilets overflowing into cells and becoming an 8th Amendment issue; see DeSpain v. Uphoff, 264 F.3d 965, 927 (10th Cir 2001); McCord. v Maggio, 927 F.2d 844, 847 (5th Cir 1991); and Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d at 569-70. You may not win, but you can make them sweat.) Having said all of that, one ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so just go ahead and build yourself a plug for your door. I made mine out of newspapers and the plastic sleeves that the commissary socks come wrapped in. I’ve seen my run get flooded many times since that first disaster, and my cell has stayed dry each and every time, thanks to the plug. Save yourself a disgusting experience, and build one today.

Seems like I could go on forever on just water related issues, but I will limit myself to just one more: the water that comes out of the pipes is well water. First off, make sure that you are using a toothpaste with fluoride in it, because you aren’t going to get any from any other source. The dental care here is ... ahh, pretty medieval, something you will figure out after you go through the one-year waiting list to see the dentist. Actually, its going to take longer than that, because you can’t even put in a request to see the dentist until you have been in TDC for at least a year. So, brush your teethies, dude. Anyways, back to what I was saying: every few months, some sort of epidemic runs rampant back here, and while I have no means of determining the locus of these things; I have begun to suspect the water. After Hurricane Ike came through in 2008 and knocked our water out for a week, I made a habit of filling up six or seven water bottles each night before I go to bed. I set these up in my window, so that the sun can blast them with UV light for 8 hours or so. This kills pretty much everything in the bottle, and is the only means you have of purifying what you put in your body. Again, I have no way of knowing exactly what effect this has had on my health, but I haven’t been sick in a few years, so maybe this time correlation really does imply causation. Give it a try; it certainly can’t hurt you.

Have you received your commissary ID card yet? Ah, good, good. It’s sort of sad how excited everyone gets on commissary day, isn’t it? As soon as they show up on the pod it’s like freaking Santa Claus showed up with Playboy Bunny elves, the way these people act. I’ve always had the mental image of myself morphing into a dog, waiting on my master to toss me a very overpriced, poor-quality bone. Whatever my feelings on the matter, I tended to get as excited as ... well, not as much as everyone else, but about as excited as I ever got about anything, anymore. If money is as tight for you as it was for me, I have a few suggestions on ways to save you some cash during your time here.

First off, if you cant afford a HOT POT then ask one of the mod-men in your section to make you a "stinger." It’s not necessary or appropriate for me to describe this thing for you here, but if you ask around, someone will be able to help you. I made myself one while I was on Level once that could boil a cup of water in about 30 seconds. If you can afford a hot-pot, the first thing you want to do is get yourself a few twist-ties from the loaves of bread that they sell on commissary. Pick up the pot, and look at where the cord exits the clear plastic base. When you move the cord around, that black plastic piece tends to bite into the cord. Move the cord around enough, and the black piece will cut it in half. To prevent this, use the twist-ties to secure the cord to the base of the handle, thus preventing it from moving at all. This will keep you from having to buy a new hot-pot every year or so. Not much I can do for you if one of the officers rips the cord out, as happened to me in 2009. What you do from that point forward is not something I can tell you; you have to decide where your own lines are.

If you use the typewriter a lot, there are some very NIFTY TRICKS people have invented to get the most use out of each ribbon. Just ask a neighbor, and he will be able to help you.

I know that it is tempting to go a little nuts with your commissary PURCHASES. In the freeworld, I always made sure that I had just eaten a good meal before I went grocery shopping, to keep from wasting money on crap that would have just made me fat anyways. Unfortunately, you are never going to be far from your hunger here, so you are going to need to elevate your level of discipline instead. You are definitely going to want to "spread" with your friends and neighbors, and I think that this is an excellent way to strengthen the bonds that one needs to survive here. People do have some really tasty RECIPES, but spreading is really expensive, so try to limit yourself as much as possible, and use the money instead on things like books or CLASSES.

My weekly diet was as follows: during the day, I did not snack; I ate only the trays as they came from the kitchen. At night, I made a small meal around 7.00pm. Four nights a week, I simply mixed up 1/5 a container of rice (90 cents a pack/5 = 18 cents) with 1/5 a container of beans (95 cents/5 = 19 cents), and then added a dash of jabanero sauce for flavor (65 cents a bottle/30 servings = 2 cents). That’s a decent, fairly nutritious meal for under 40 cents. The other three days a week, I mixed rice with one package of mackerel (80 cents), which is a bit pricier, but I heard that fish oil is good for us. If you were to calculate the difference in my old diet and compare it to the totals from most of your neighbors, the cost savings would add up to several college courses per year. The brain is supposed to rule the stomach; I suggest you get to work on retraining yourself so that this rather bizarre (for our times, anyways) notion becomes a hard fact.

Oftentimes, the commissary simply wont have what you ordered, so if you are buying items for your portion of a spread, or paying off a debt, make sure to write "sub" and then add other items for substitution. In the Land of the Valley of the Shadow of Governmental Waste, the commissary worker is king. These people have hit upon the perfect scam, really. A part of me is even appreciative. A very small part, mind. To illustrate the point I am going to make, take a look at this RECEIPT. As you can see, quite a few items were crossed off my list, for lack of availability. Now, a truck does come to the unit each Wednesday, with that weeks supply of goods for sale. But the workers here have hit upon the realization that they are going to get paid the exact same amount whether they sell a million bucks worth of supplies or one dollars worth, so you can bet on which end of the scale they tend to favor. In a normal supply/demand sort of situation, such people would be run out of business. In our world, of course, they are the business, and nobody gives a rat’s ass who complains about it. From our standpoint, this is a serious annoyance. From a budgetary standpoint, this is a disaster, a massive source of income that is being passed over, simply because nobody cares to roll up their sleeves. This is all the more curious, when you hear weekly about prison officials moaning to the state about lack of funds this, and shortfalls that. One of these days, maybe someone will choose to tackle the books of this place, but neither you nor I will still be around to see it.

Have I worn you out yet? A little, yes, but not quite as bad as the last time? I guess I am an acquired taste, and a bit much to take at times. People sometimes find me a little intense when I get off into one of my projects, and yes, your well-being is definitely a project for me. I will leave you with a small chore, if I may, something which will add a little flavor and challenge to your day. Every single day of my time on the Row, I picked out a word from the dictionary that was unknown to me. I made a habit of trying to use this new word at least five times a day in casual conversation. This seems easy, but, trust me, trying to find a spot for "tautology" or "demotic" five freaking times is a lot harder than you think. People are going to look at you odd for a while, until they figure out what you are doing. Then you might actually have neighbors whose Game of the Day is trying to figure out your word. The point is, it spreads around, and before you know it, people that never passed the sixth grade are calling each other "helots" and engaging in "dithyrambs," and its all your fault. And it feels great. Better than great; it feels enlightening.

Ok, I’m out. See you soon, and try to keep your head up.

Vae Victis, my friend.



If you are a pen-pal of an inmate on any Death Row in the nation, you are invited to have him/her submit a “Letter” of their own. There are no real guidelines that I want to impose on this, as that would negatively affect a recounting of their experiences and their advice. Content will only be edited if it should be deemed (by me) to be offensive. You are also free to submit a photo or piece of art to go with the narrative. Be sure to include full personal information. Who knows? This stuff may end up really helping someone someday. You wont know, unless you try.

Submissions can be emailed to dina-at-minutesbeforesix-dot-com

© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Poetry by Matt Barnes

Internal Struggle
By Matt Barnes

Slipping into darkness my mind is on its own time…
Don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve felt alive…
The world is moving past me it all becomes a blur…
So frustrated I want to scream but nothing comes out that can be heard…
I’m stuck in this mortal prison trying to break free…
I know its all up to me if I want it to be…
I feel the weight upon my shoulders the struggle is getting real…
Surrounded by concrete and the presence of evil…
I can’t afford to slip back into that mentality…
Got to keep the fight going if I want to succeed…
The reality of my life is a story as old as time…
A fight between good and evil which one will survive…
I’m interested in seeing how this story will end…
Will I be the cause of my own demise or will I final find that peace of mind…

By Matt Barnes

I never thought I would be here today…
So much time wasted playing games…
Only one life to live and it’s over in a flash…
Years slipping by like sand through the hourglass…
Why did it take so long to realize that life is precious…
The experiences that I’ve missed had me stressing…
I have to admit it was fund while it lasted…
But there’s so much more than I could ever imagine…
Stars in the night sky swimming in the Milky Way…
That will truly take your breath away…
There’s no time left to dwell on the past…
Instead I need to focus on a metamorphosis that will last…

By Matt Barnes

Lost in a world that’s been turned upside down, darkness spiraling all around…
My mentality can’t comprehend the reality that in actuality the evil we witness is born from ignorance and racist ideologies…
Society is bound to break while screams of frustrations echo through the night and blood flows in the streets…
People forgetting their humanity, consumed by hatred and a false sense of entitlement…
Hate spreading like a disease across generations to engulf the mentality of the masses…
The moment to be woke is at hand…
No longer can we stand by allowing injustice to breed helplessness and disparity…
Overcome with emotion and the passion to take action…
Ultimately, my goal is to demonstrate that when you’re kind to others it not only changes you but has the ability to change your environment…

Wake Up Call
By Matt Barnes

The reality of the world today is quite crazy…
I can’t relate to all this insanity…
Constantly trying to corrupt my integrity…
I sit here in disbelief…
As the world around me begins to disintegrate…
I see the pain, destruction and hate…
And underneath everyone can be so fake…
All it takes is a little kindness and faith…
To turn back the hands of time before it’s too late…
We need to focus on making the world a better place…
Piece together the shattered sense of humanity…
And explore a new generation of harmony…
It’s our responsibility to society…
To do all we can to make this a reality…
Got to wake up and see the facts…
Because if things continue to go the way they are it’s going to end up all bad…
Let this serve as a wake up call…
To do your part to extinguish the flames of hate…

Remember we are all what we think…

Bright Shiny Days
By Matt Barnes

Looking towards a future with bright shiny days...
So close I can feel the heat radiating off my face...
Life is what we make it...
I’m entitled to believe...
That we have the power to create our own destiny...
It’s something to be cherished...
Live it to its fullest...
Happiness and joy will carry me throughout the day...
Needed to find my purpose...
To make all this worth it...
Aint going back to those dark gloomy days...
If I had it to do again...
I wouldn’t change a thing...
It’s those experiences that made me into who I am today...
Motivated to succeed...
Reaching for my dreams...
Anxiously looking forward to those bright shiny days...

By Matt Barnes

The pain I feel from past decisions was me thinking about the way I was living...
Know right from wrong but yet I did it...
Lives impacted without care...
That the destruction I've caused came from my decisions...
Torn apart, lives are taken...
Like a piece to a puzzle that just aint fitting...
Lost in a fog and can’t see where I’m going...
I'm all mixed up but my hearts still pumping...
Can't fix the past but there’s still hope for a future...
Won't give up until I reach it...
Success aint easy but I know I can achieve it...
To make things right I must endure the struggle...
One step at a time, there's no mistaking...
That my decisions today are something different...
Trying to bring hope to a new generation...
I've realized that what I do impacts others...

Matt Barnes V21217
Pelican Bay State Prison
P.O. Box 7500 A-4 #230
Crescent City, CA 95532-7000

My name is Matt Barnes. I’m 36 years old and have been incarcerated for the past 19 years. I'm a full-time college student working towards an associate’s degree in behavioral and social science. Graduating this fall. I have aspirations of achieving a master's degree in English once I parole. I’m very passionate about education and am employed as a teacher's aide here in the prison’s education department. I’m also passionate about writing, spending most of my day writing essays, reflections and poetry.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Poetry by Frederick Page

Each Day Belongs to Us
by Freddie Page

A single second of a minute,
are but moments of our day.
Reflects the content of heart;
by what we do or say.
We have lived each second,
committed to a love that's true.
The moments that we’ve shared
confirms love by what we do.
Each day belongs to us,
defining the quality of life.
Enhanced by our character,
to remain as husband and wife!

I Love You Still
by Freddie Page

From the day
we first met!
My love for you
hasn’t changed yet.
But then again,
it has.
Quite different,
than in the past.
It’s stronger, better,
defined more clear.
It’s the thing in life,
I find most dear!

A River Flowing
by Freddie Page

To think of a river,
two types come to mind?
One sitting still, one flowing
clearly another kind.
She can be either one,
peaceful or running over.
A gentle taste of love,
tenderly I get to know her.
When she’s running over;
I know more I am blessed.
Cause running and wet,
is when she’s at her best!

Life is too Precious
by Freddie Page

An amazing thought occurred;
how precious life has been!
To have you as my wife,
as my closest friend.
To look at our lives,
consider what is to be.
The better part of living,
I believe you gave to me.
Life is much too precious,
too valuable to waste or lose.
To do it all over again,

it would be you whom I’d choose.

Seven Ways to Look at Freedom
by Frederick Page

Amid multitudes of men,
Lies a common thread
An instinctive out cry for freedom.

Inside me a raging torrent,
As a sea
While freedom displays it’s many depictions.

Freedom strides regally individual in heart.
It‘s realities conflict among a vast global community.

Our freedom and our resistance
Are unified.
Our freedom and our resistance and our expression
Are unified.

At times I’m vividly stuck between,
Freedom's hopeful existence
Or the struggle in its non-existence,
Scarred by its distortions.
Or its elusiveness.

Wealth enticingly capitulates my being
Through clever disguise.
The idea of having freedom
Often abused, sometimes distorted.
Still desired
A fleeting gift
often appearing unattainable.

Oh Freedom created so wonderful,
Why allude to oppression, corruption and war.
Your blessing is long hoped for.
Resonating in my footsteps
deeply rooted in spirit you are admired.

Unborn, I Cry
by Frederick Page 

Future presidents and scientist, inventors and entreprenuer’s,
educators shot down in their youth and incarcerated,
simply because of their area code or the color of their skin,
which neither are in their power to change,
subjugated to a prison industrial complex, fueled by the idea of
a capitalist utopia, sustained by mass incarceration,
Governor Wolfe standing firm against tax breaks for the wealthy,
while education for urban areas loom in doom,
mimicking Adelanto California’s prison expansion, promising em-
ployment, while its children are being taught in trailers,
one step away from prison, pledging allegiance to America out of,
what is in comparison to a dumpster used for trash,
meanwhile Republicans nail Wolfe to a Cross, making mockery of
his Saviour like status for children of oppression,
justifying class inequality by the preconceived notion that paying
for more prisons is IDE ultimate solution for privileged...
elitists capitalist who tell Wolfe, you can't save yourself from
the place of safe refuge that we offer by our greatness,
while we close schools and increase our income and our potential
for existence for we are past, present and your future,
secured by Newt Gingrich's Prison Litigation Reform Act that will
assure the undermining of prison litigation and lawsuits,
while discouraging pursuit of justice that can not be afforded,
our children, not yet born, with hope unborn, they cry! we cry!
don’t give them what their cotton is worth,
don't give them adequate legal representation, or a voice in our
land of the free, make more money for me,
but there's no more land to build, so we’ll build in a land fill,
where nothing ever grows, no exploits left to venture,
but wait! the land still has some value, we've found a commodity,
worthy of its apparel, its origin is of a lower class,
Pack em' in Rikers Island on top of a toxic waste landfill, don't
resolve their complaints no matter how ill they feel,
Pack em' in Fayette in Pennsylvania’s 506-acre coal ash dump,
both employees’ and prisoners’ health erodes, who cares,
Pack em' in 13 state and federal prisons near Centon City, Colo-
rado, where waters polluted from mining uranium,
Pack em' in Texas and California, where no man of color live free
of the elevated levels of arsenic in water near Navasota TX,
Pack em' in Victorville Federal Correctional Complex that sits on
a former weapons storage site cited for Superfund cleanup,
Pack em' in Northwest Detention Center, near Tacoma Washington,
that is a designated volcanic hazard zone,
Urban children around the country, we hear your cry and feel your
pain while you bear the trumped up charges against Jesus,
born Saviour of humanity, yet what is humane loathes your being,
that is, you are the hope of tomorrow, Jupiter rising,
we fight for you, when you think no one cares, we hold you down,
when you think life will never be fair,
we make known your presence, when you feel invisible, we keep
hope alive, while everything around you appears to be dead,
we are you, as you are we, you are the voice, Unborn, I cry!

Frederick Page BU2238
SCI Graterford
P.O. Box 244
Graterford, PA 19426