Thursday, February 28, 2008

Poetry by R. Shiloh Bryant

Dew Drops of Wisdom
(Part - Three)
Poetic - Maxims by: R. Shiloh-Bryant

She who whistle --- calls the devil

Deep within a snake lies a worm
Get the upper hand
Watch him run

Cosmetic is deceptive

Play with a child s/he will SASS you out
Play with a dog he’ll LICK your mouth
Play with TRASH it will get in your EYE

Lofty thoughts --- keep one above ball shhhh

It’s best a man ou-ou-ou
Rather than oh-oh-oh!

Don’t always take the dollar and give the dime
From time to time, turn it around

There is a difference BETWEEN your right and left ear --

Observation give light to hindsight, insight & foresight

When you serve --your being are served

Presence of devil or his AGENTS---make one sneeze

There is no such thing. “I am bored”--It’s a i the mind

Respect your TOES---They keep you balanced

Always bend--in a strong wind

To MASTER anger---seek ye FIRST the Kingdom

Rubies of Condolence
(Poetic-Rhythmic Prose)
By R. Shiloh Bryant

When there is
Rubies of condolence
Buy relief,
Purchase the nind
A little peace

...a strong hand and arm, around the shoulder to calm,
Of the LORD.

EMPATHY not sympathy
In the RUBIES it depart: “ WE HAVE EMPATHIZED.



R. Shilogh-Bryant #354415, Eastham, 2665-Prison Rd 1, Lovelady, TX75851

Dew Drops of Wisdom
(Part Four)
Poetic - Maxims by R. Shiloh-Bryant

Always recall--wisdom is information

Think--don’t drink, it is best for health & wealth
“Yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, no sir--bring your blessings

Never allow ACCESS for LARGESS-nor give LARGESS for ACCESS

There’s no question more powerful than “why”-if you know “how”

The dead know what the living is doing but,
The “living’ doesn’t know what the “dead”
Is doing

Doggy style is the way to go, but only a few know,

One learn from being wrong

Don’t cut the line as a bully--cut only out of necessity

Demonstrate by your thirst--if you want to
Be first

Life reveal wisdom is for the wise-education isn’t necessary

Realize the judge are your eyes

Stay conscious of the principle of equity & golden rule

LIfe is a see-saw--make sure you saw what you see & what
You saw
(mistaken identity is costly)
To be AFRAID is to FEAR, fear

Pictures Don’t Lie
By R. Shiloh-Bryant

Woman I can’t believe my eyes
That’s my brotha b’tween yo’thighes
Are you tryin ‘to kill me
If so, please tell me why
‘Cause this the first time
The first time pictures made me
Pictures made me-made me cry
‘Cause I know - pictures don’t lie
Some make you happy - very happy
Some make you cry - and cry
But pictures don’t - don’t tell lies
Might as well believe my eyes
‘Cause pictures don’t lie - don’t lie

These pictures say you been gone
You just hadn’t said goodbye
‘Cause pictures-pictures don’t tell lies
Might as well - dry my eyes
Stop tryin’ - to figure out why
‘Cause I know - pictures don’t lie
Some mak3e you happy - very happy
Some make you cry - and cry
But pictures don’t - don’t tell lies
Might as well believe my eyes
‘Cause pictures don’t lie - don’t lie

Woman-woman - I’m gonna bow out
Family feud ain;t what I’m about
You not gonna - have us both
I feel you - love him most
Like country boy - ima catch ghost
‘Cause I know - pictures don't oie
Some make you happy - very happy
Some make you cry - and cry
But pictures don’t - don’t tell lies
Might as well believe my eyes
‘Cause pictures don’t lie - don’t lie  

Dew Drops Of Wisdom
(Part Five)
By R. Shiloh-Bryant

Do not let saggin’ define you  ‘al-spell it backward
One's philosophy should be their policy-in all honesty
Hog is for dogs---tattoos are for fools
Subject one, three days straight-give cause 2 investigate
Never fear cancer---if so, it’s like running from a dog
Stay away from the fray and --don’t be a prey
Presently, let the past, be for a successful future
Never go QUID PRO QUO--unless it’s constitutionally moral
Whether one be right or wrong-therein is a natural lesson
You can make everyone angry but, you can not make everyone
So don’t do it nor try it
Ease your pain with the energy emitted from finger tips
...with an affirmation
Running from a bully empowers the bully
Always WARMLY breathe in the nostrils of the COMATOSE

In the a.m., at six-forty four
Poetic lyrics by R. Shiloh-Bryant

Listenin’ to those - those passin’ below
Feelin’ the breeze thru’ the window
Sippin’ hot coffee watchin’ the rain
Wonderin’ who - whos her new man
Nursin’ my pain - nursin’ my pain
Sippin’ hot coffee watchin’; the rain
Wonderin’ who - whos her ne man
Nursin’ my pain - nursin’ my pain

Wonderin’ did she find someone
Someone that know how to mow
Mow her lawn - wit the tongue
Rack her leaves -n ‘til she’s p;eased
Trim her hedges - groom her veggies
Better than me - better than me
Nursin’ my pain - nursin’ my pain
Sippin’ hot coffee watchin’ the rain
Wonderin’ who - whos her new man
Nursin’ my pain - nursin’ my pain

Waitin’ for the sun to rise
Knowin’ it will dry my eyes
Tastin’ bitterness of this lonely life
Makes me shiver - like chewin’ ice
Nursin’ my pain - nursin’ my pain
Sippin’ hot coffee watchin’ the rain
Wonderin’ who - whos her new man
Nursin’ my pain - nursin’ my pain

Dew Drops of Wisdom
(Part  Six)
By R. Shiloh-Bryant

1.) Pray in the Spirit: Breathe your words
2.) COMA is a conscious-under the UNconscious
3.) When it come to Ladies-all you need to pay attention
4.) Avoid trouble-don’t look for it, yet don’t run from it
5.) Just because one is wong-doesn’t mean, one doesn’t know
6.) It pays to be beautiful but, a great personality increase the salary & wage
7.) If there was no LOVE - there would be no WORLD
8.) Preach your doctrine, only if you practice! If not you’ll see (?)
9.) Treasure your WEALTH; which is your HEALTH
10.) You must ACKNOWLEDGE a thing-for IT to exist for you
11.) In scripture there's MUSH & MEAT, which one do you EAT (?)
12.) To get a head in capitalism; you gotta know somebody or blow somebody

Dedicated to
Mr. Stanley D. Wine
Dew drops stops: THE END.

Dew Drops of Wisdom
(Steady Dropping)
By R. Shiloh Bryant

Forgiveness Heals
Always be polite – in spite…
When you train a dog – a dog train you
When you don’t believe – at least heed
Barking dog can’t bite – arguing person isn’t ready to fight
Don’t just pray for crops to grow – till the soil
Be like the ant – never say “can’t”
Tears are for the coming – laughter is for the going
Death is not death – it’s the 14th amendment
Think of your health – never mourn death
Chew on the bone – ‘til you get to the marrow
Bad hair last – like a mangy dog
Good hair – bald and fall
Don’t just look – see
Don’t; just hear – understand
Don’t just smell – sense
Don’t just think – recognize
Don’t just smell – sense!
Don’t just think – recognize
Don’t just taste – feel

A fool may be considered wise – until he opens his mouth

Spiritual Lover
By R. Shiloh Bryant

I’ am!
Your spiritual lover
I love you
When you’re sleeping
I’m the cause
Your emotions be leaping

When you sleep
I make you feel complete
That’s me (he-he-he!)
Cause I am!
Your spiritual lover

If I didn’t tell you
You would never discover
That I am!
Your spiritual lover
I make you move against
The sheets
When you sleep

I am!
That creep(er)
That make you
Take that leap
S’wet your sheets
Leave your hair
In a heap

Only your spiritual lover know
...know what you know
The ahhha, iiiiii’s and oooooo’s
As your spiritual lover
Do what he do

Your spiritual lover
Know what you like
You like
When I make you smile
In your sleep
And sample
All your sweets
From cheek to cheek
(To be continued...)

Dew drops of wisdom
By R. Shiloh Bryant

Navel has a pore size hole
In and out the spirit goes

He whom eats in darkness
Feeds the devil

There’s more room out
Than in

Thoughts that are small
Are seen in the one that stalls

He whom drags his feet
Mind is weak

Don’t worry if days go fast or slow
Of each just make the most

With firmness
Always be fair

Greed lead to dis’ease
As a prisoner
Mind your business

Like a cup of coffee
“Good” doesn’t last long
So make sure your good is strong

Never tell your business
Let your business tell

Always drink water
Before you eat

Keep your shoes shined

If one itch
It’s expected to be scratched

If one chooses to be a dog
They should never bark

Word to the Wise
By R. Shiloh Bryant

Justice is a joke
Like Miss Liberty is blind

Tho’ she has been CAUGHT PEEKING several times (stop laughing).

The ‘Fer Girls
By R. Shiloh Bryant

Long long ago in a heavenly world, there were the ‘Fer girls
One was very dissatisfied with their Father
She wanted to be more radiant than He,
Thus she rebelled against his authority resulting in being kicked out of the Father’s domain
When Luci was expelled she took with her sister Jenni
Luci ‘Fer and Jenni ‘Fer arrived on the west coast
And swore in their own rite that they’ll be “stars” one day
Let it be understood
In Luci and Jenni dictionary “star” is defined “God”
The ‘Fer girls went immediately to work
Lying, conniving, working their charm
Luci was so aggressive and dominating
 most referred to Luci ‘Fer as “he”
Yet she went by the name “Luci”
And vowed to make the world love…..
Luci was mischievous, a liar, deceptive, also powerful with the art of persuasion
Doing whatever it takes to get “his” way
At other times doing whatever it takes to get “her” way
Luci eventually secured her television show
One sure way to becoming a “star” on the west coast
But never in the Father’s house
Luci shared the news with Jenni
Automatically Jenni “Fer wanted to follow in her sister’s foot steps
Luci was impressed thinking to herself
“A girl after my heart….so be it I’ll show our Father”
Of course Luci had to grow her popularity first
And that she did but it wasn’t very long before
She had worked her charm for Jenni ’Fer
Securing her a show
“I Dream of Genni”
The ‘Fer girls were fast rising stars, adored and loved
Luci was still empty because she realized
 She could not shine brighter than the Father
Being that people loved her because of her lies and performance
But they loved the Father because of his truth
She bared witness
Luci ‘Fer thought, “I wish I could be back with my Father though!”
She instantly shook that thought and promised to double down
On being a liar, cheat, thief, and …to pervert the whole world
Since she can never return to the Father
Nor be like Him, so she’ll be totally opposite
This made Luci ‘Fer reflect, “I’m deceiving the world”
My character makes right seem wrong and wrong seem right
I’ll never be truly well liked
I make east, west, and west, east
I have obscured my identity
My greatest deception
Deceiving and misleading the world
I hide right before the world’s eyes yet…
I can’t deceive the Father…damn it
So in the west Luci ‘Fer began to shine like Venus the morning star
The shine went all over America and the region of Canada
All one could hear was “I LOVE LUCI!”
Luci ‘Fer became a star
A god, for star is equated with “god” in Luci ‘Fer’s dictionary
In man’s subconscious and unconscious
This being one reason in Hollywood
Luci ‘Fer’s agents are making “stars”
Luci ‘Fer appeals to her audience subconscious
Knowing shortly thereafter one will find themselves consciously Idolizing
Worshipping these “stars” i.e. Gods
From one end of America to the other
Luci ‘Fer is heard shouting “Bingo, eureka!!”
Luci ‘Fer smiles to herself as she hugs her sister Jenni/Genni
Thinking “Jenni-Genni
Based on Luci ‘Fer’s conduct she acknowledges she’ll never outshine the Father
The TRUTH, she can deceive millions away from the Father
As evident by her and sister Jenni ‘Fer’s notoriety
Millions are bragging, “I love Luci Fer and “I dream of Genni
Jenni (Genni) is code word for demon
Though they’ll never be God
But in all fairness as “stars” in their own rite
They are “gods” at the very least
Based on their dictionary
And millions worship them: THE ‘FER GIRLS

Dyin’ 2 Live
By R. Shiloh Bryant

It was early to bed-early to rise
The prison high rider
Says, “It makes a convict healthy and wise”
Shucking corn, picking cotton
Big white bows with the rotten
Modern day slavery
High rider armed
Wrong time for bravery
No comfort… joy
No love….no Roy
Things get no better
Only worse
No letter
I got a letter today
And cried with every word
The obituary had to say
I was so hurt with instant pain
It put the slave labor to shame
Baby was gone and I was alone
Everyone said be strong
I didn’t know how
But I needed to hold on
And I……….
Rose early to modern day slavery
As I picked cotton
I began to reminisce
Of the space, time, the shared time
The good times, the bad times, the stories
Giving her the glory Amen
The scratching of her back
But more, the scratching of mine..ahhhh
Traveling, hiking, camping, skating, dating…oh boy
Kissing, hugging, hiding her toys, oops smiling
Am I laughing
I be damn
Should I be ashamed, no more pain
Tears stain my cheeks, but what are they grief
Has pleasant thoughts brought relief
What a price to pay
To now have my sanity
More questions, no answers
So I’ll do it my way
And the way I’d want her to do
“fuck death”
And….like a brave slave celebrate the life
In honor of her
I’m dying 2 live

Song - Things
By R. Shiloh Bryant

Get no better
Only worst
No letter…..And,
I g-o-t- a let-ter to-d-a-y
And c-r-i-e-d with -every-wo-r-d the o-bi-tu-ary had-to s-ay
I was-so-hurt with in-stant p-a-i-n
it -put-the s-lave la-borto ab-race.
Ba-by was g-o-n-e, and-I was a-lo-ne
E-ve-ry one s-aid, b-e str-o-ng--,
I did-n’t know h-ow--,
But I ne-ed-ed. To h-old o-n--,
A-n-d--, I-i-i-i--,

Prose - Rose early to modern day I picked cotton
I began to reminisce...of the space, time. The shared time. 
The goodtimes...the bad times...stories.
Giving her the--ahem!--”glory”.
The scratching of her back, but more--
The scratching of mine. Ahhhh.
Travelling hiking camping, skating dating, ohhh boy!
Kissing hugging...hiding her toys,opps! Smiling.
Am I laughing? I be dam! - Shoud I be ashame?-No more pain?!
\Tears stains my cheeks but, where are the grief?
Lies pleasant thoughts BOUGHT relief?
What a price to pay?
Am I wrong for trying to hold on(?) to thte best thing
I now have(?)-my sanity!
More questions no answers,
So, I’ll do it my way, and the way I’d want her to do;
(say)”F--ki death”! a brfave slave...Celebrate

R. Shiloh-Bryant 354415
Eastham State Prison
2665 Prison Road 1
Lovelady, TX 75851

With the kiss of peace. Hi, I’m Roy Shiloh-Bryant of Oakland. Presently I’m confined in Texas state prison for a robbery I did not commit; and I’ve been falsely imprisoned for four decades. I’ll save you all the horrors of this plantation life. Instead I’ll ASK if you like my style of: poetry, song-prose all wrapped into ONE? Please let me know. I’m in the process of finishing up a  “guide to freedom” which is a legal booklet/guide, explaining the nature of a Grand Jury True Billo Indictment; which most lawyers have “forgotten” this jurisdictional claim and reversible error. I also, write short stories...if you all appreciate this one, Dyin’ 2 live, I’ll share much more! And they are all ORIGINAL..

Advice From The Half-Dead

February 28, 2008 - 3:45 a.m.

These empty desert plains
that spread out
before my eyes, like
the landscape of a dead world
I know they do not exist
yet, they are
all I know
all that exists within me
Those who walk swiftly, carelessly
at my side
see Elysian Fields
cloaked by azure skies
At least, they tell me so
-and I believe them
I've always believed them
For long have I suspected
that my eyes look
and do not see
beyond the plague of my own vision...

-Gabriel Alejandro Moran-Gonzalez
"Espejos y Simulacra"
(My translation)

I think I live most of my life in a sort of haze. Wherever it is that I am living, whatever it is that I am doing, I don't feel as if I am completely there. Oh, I fake it well. I notice things, people. Details. I make an ignorantly caustic comment or two, or ten; I have a passing thought on the taste or smell of something, but this is all a function of my body. Increasingly, I do not feel as if my body is really connected to the idea of me-ness, and I wonder if this is a good thing or bad thing. My brain betrays me, confuses me, my body breaks down on me. I desperately want to do the right thing, but I constantly do the wrong thing, and afterwards, I cannot figure out why. I look back at my life, and I feel like I am watching a film of someone else. Am I alone in this? Is this maturity? Did I skip the middle chunk of life, determined to die as an old man? Am I alone in this? Maybe part of what it is to be human is to become numb to the ordinariness of life. I know this happened to me. I just don't feel I was built for this brave new world. Like there should be something more, and 401 (k)s and citrus hair products simply cannot fill in as a substitution. In all my life, I can think of only a few moments where I felt truly present, truly connected to the world, or something greater. I read about people who seem to live like that all the time. I'm working through a Larry Rosenberg work right now, and he gets to the now through meditative breathing exercises. I can't seem to make that work for me. I guess I need the world to kick me in the face to wake me up, and it happens so rarely that when it's gone, I forget about it. I feel it's absence, though I have no idea what piece of myself got left out of the box, or even if I am thinking rationally. I will admit to being guilty of over-thinking things to the point that I am poisoned by a sense of nihilism. I don't know why God always seems so far away at 3 in the morning. It's not Him, I know. The fault is mine, and my broken machinery that passes for a brain.

The way our recreation cycle works: on odd numbered calendar days, the guys on one-row go out first, while on even numbered days those of us on two-row go first. On Wednesdays and Saturdays my section has our "outdoor" rec times. You go in pairs, because there are two rec cages, facing each other. Today, the guards screwed up the whole rec cycle for the entire pod, so I was asked if I would prefer to go outside, even though it wasn't my day. This happens more than you would think, because managing 84 convicts is, apparently, like differential equations for some people. It was my day to go to rec last, so I asked who I would be going out with. The guard told me there was an odd number of recs left, so I would be going out alone. I've been feeling a little crazy and alone lately, so I wasn't sure I wanted to go out by myself, but in the end I decided the cold air would do me some good. At around 8 PM I bundled up, and pretty soon they came to handcuff me and take me downstairs. I don't really remember what I was thinking about when I first got out there. Something typically fragmentary, no doubt. I was walking around the perimeter of the yard, my mind off wandering about wherever it is my mind goes most of the time, when the overhead light burnt out. Suddenly, the sickly sodium vapor yellow was gone, and there was nothing but night sky above me. I couldn't even see the metal grates or mesh, only the sky. I had not seen a star in almost three years, until that moment. I just stood there, staring upward, my mouth hanging stupidly open. You are never alone in the dark in prison. There is always an overhead light, or a searchlight, or something, always in your face. I wish I could put into words how it felt to stand there, with the cold breeze on my face, and the stars twinkling their light down from the cosmos. I wondered about which stars they were. Did they still burn, or had they imploded and collapsed a million years ago? For some reason, the inexplicable desire to get closer to them overcame me, and I started climbing the bars, my bad arm and all, until I had my face pressed against the grate above me. I tell you this in retrospect, because I do not remember getting myself up there. I don't know how my cheeks got wet. After a few centuries, or a few minutes, I know not which, the picket officer finally noticed that the light was out. She popped the gates, and came outside, and did a double take when she saw me two stories up. I reluctantly came down, and shuffled over to the bars separating us.

Star Map of the star Thomas bought in his mothers name

"Whitaker, what the hell were you doing up there?" She looked concerned, because in a year on Death Row, I've never caught a case for anything (you don't understand the enormity of this statement, but maybe I will explain it someday). I didn't really know what to say. I think something awkward tumbled out about the stars, but it didn't make much sense, so I just shrugged. She must have noticed the look on my face, though, because she herself looked up, and then back down at me, and if I didn't know better, I would have sworn there was a moment of understanding and then something else, like maybe horror. To the few of you who don't come to this site for ammunition, you may have picked up on the fact that I am...extremely sympathetic to the emotive states of people around me. But I could have been wrong. It might have just been to check if I was sawing my way through the grate. I don't think she would have appreciated me telling her that I was talking to God.

Star Map of the star Thomas bought in his brothers name

I had to leave the yard, because inmates aren't supposed to be out there without illumination, and it naturally takes three committees and about twenty TDC employees to change a light bulb (that was not a joke). When I got back to my cell, I just sat there for awhile, trying to get my thoughts in order. I started thinking about how much I used to take things for granted. I never appreciated anything, not the feel of grass or sand under my feet. Certainly not the people in my life. I thought about my friend Tina, who is so faithful to God that she keeps nothing for herself. She told me once about wanting a pair of black leather boots, but that they lived on a very strict budget. She told me about how she finally found the perfect pair, brand-new, at Goodwill for seven dollars. I felt so ashamed. In my former life, I was a completely self-absorbed snob, who didn't think twice about buying shoes that were easily 75 or 100 times more expensive than her perfect boots. And they meant nothing to me. Just another piece of the camouflage that was Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. I started thinking about all the people who have no shoes. Or clothes. Or anything. I hate this cancer in me that makes all of the real world invisible. I have another friend, Brittany, who cooks for homeless people, in a program called "Food Not Bombs". She is much younger than me, but she is so smart I can barely hold a conversation with her. Tina and Brittany are worlds apart ideologically, but they are both better people than me. I wish I could be more like them, more selfless. I try to help the men around me sometimes, but I'm not even sure about my motivations. Is it pity? Is pity mine to give? Is it a sub-conscious way of positioning myself above them? Does that even make sense? I hardly think, in the grand scheme of things, that having a few more Ramen noodles than someone else qualifies me to feel superior.

Then I started thinking about grace. Sometimes, I think I understand the concept. You would think that after all the forgiveness that my Dad has shown me these last few years that I would have a handle on the issue. There is a part of me that doesn't like grace. I want God to be my loan shark, my gangster. I want to pay for my sin. It seems cosmically wrong not to have to. It all revolves around love, I'm told, and I guess I understand that on an intellectual level, but on a heart level, it's a complete mystery to me. I know how screwed up I am, and how unworthy of love.

I don't know if God still talks to people like he did Moses, or if that quiet thought in your head that comes out of nowhere is His voice. All I know is, as I was sitting there pondering my own worthlessness, I thought about what it would be like if God came down to my cell, and said that the Governor had pardoned me, and I was going home. I asked him what the catch was, and he said that somebody else was going to sit in for me on my execution. I was pondering the morality of this, when I realized that, if you believe in the Bible, this has already happened. I tried imagining how grateful I would be if I were freed, and I realized that I had never felt even one-tenth as happy at the offer of forgiveness for sin. I had taken it all for granted, of course, just like everything else. Sometimes you just have to fall on your knees. I seem to be doing a lot of that lately.

There are a lot of you who like to come to this site and point out to me the errors in my logic. You will probably think that a person like me doesn't have any knowledge that you would profit from learning. I admit to having no wisdom. Sometimes, though, life teaches even the dumbest of us things worth remembering. I guess my plea is this: stop living in a haze. Take your shoes off and go feel the grass with your toes. Hold your spouse or your kids extra tight tonight. I'm not being preachy. Appreciate this thing, whatever it is. Because we all have a date. Maybe yours isn't set like mine is, but it's there. Please don't waste it like I did. Please.

© Copyright 2008 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved.

Friday, February 15, 2008


February 15th 2008 - 7:45 PM

Ah, lockdown. A rose by any other name would be just as putrescent. I'm pretty sure I misquoted the old Bard on that one, but lockdown is truly the vilest of eight letter words. Lockdown is the biannual festival of worship to the gods of bureaucratic incompetence here in the land of TDC. This basically amounts to a three week period of shakedowns. They shut down the library and greatly reduce the trustees permitted to work. This means no kitchen staff, so you eat Johnny sacks (lamentably described in greater detail in a previous entry, but which consists of one PB and J sandwich and one bologna sandwich) three times a day for the duration of the lockdown. They totally shut down commissary as well as recreation privileges, and limit your showers to twice a week. So basically, you are smelly and hungry and bored all at once. You don't really appreciate those small rec times and trips to the shower until they are taken from you. Eventually, teams of gray-clad TDC employees storm the pod, and go through every cell, searching through every last nook and cranny. There aren't too many places to hide things, as they use a metal detector and aren't terribly shy about ripping things in half to see what's inside. Usually, they stick you in the day-rooms or the shower while they do this. If you aren't worried about them finding your non-existent contraband, it's actually kind of humorous.

This one oaf (such a delightful word, one gets so few opportunities to use it in casual conversation...but seriously, I don't know of a better adjective to properly describe this guy to you...all 300+ pounds of him, blank, cow-like stare, hunched back...picture Shrek, only not green) sat there for five minutes opening my bars of soap to smell each of them. I'm not really sure what he expected to find in there by sniffing them. Normally, they bring this box with them, which is 2 cubic feet in volume. All of your items are supposed to fit inside this box, save certain items like a hot-pot or a typewriter. If you are over, they toss your excess. This is the part that annoys me. Last time they trashed my correspondence, which royally pissed me off, as this is probably one of my most precious possessions. They tried to do this again, but I got the attention of the sergeant and used the Inmate Handbook to show him why this wasn't allowed. It was like watching the slowest clockworks in the world as he pondered my point. This particular officer is the type to blame a forest fire on the trees, so I figured I was out of luck. He tossed them, sure enough, but I got them back. I'm not telling how. You do what you have to do sometimes. I will say this: fishing a single manila folder out of a pile of trash at 45 feet isn't as easy as it looks. And what a mountain of trash it was: maybe 10 feet by 8 feet, and at least 4 feet tall. After I had landed that trophy bass, so to speak, I remarked to my neighbor that it would take a bulldozer to get all that out of the section. I soon set about reorganizing my house, which looked like a tornado had passed through. It wasn't too long after I began this process that my nose picked up the scent of smoke. No! I thought to myself. Surely not. Not again. You see, one of my new neighbors on the row has a tendency to light fires when he is unhappy. I think he believes this is some form of non-violent protest or something. A real Ghandi, this guy. Polunsky zen. Anyways, it gets old real quick. This time around, though, he went for the gold, launching a flaming projectile into Mount St. BFI, which promptly started the process of becoming one with atmosphere. That freaking fire was HUGE. I couldn't see five feet in front of my cell, the smoke was so thick. I guess I thought it was pretty humorous, actually, until I thought about the guy on two-row that has asthma and a few other respiratory problems. I called down there, but I didn't hear anything, so I began calling for the guards to turn on the blower vents. The picket guard got on the speaker to quip that "if the fire was too hot, get out of the kitchen". I suppose this was an attempt at wit, but I was less than amused. I have witnessed this particular officers two remaining brain cells battling each other for superiority, beating each other with a stick like baby seals, so I guess I should have congratulated her on coming up with at least that much. Eventually the fire died down, and I found out my neighbor was ok. They brought in a small army of OJT's (on the job trainees) to clean up the mess, as the trustees were still locked down. I managed to hear the training officer comment that these fires were proof that "there ain't a decent mother f- in this section." I'm not even going to take that apart to its component flaws, but it did get me to thinking about the violence levels here in prison. I get asked a lot about this in letters; though it isn't really a subject I relish talking about. I do tend to look at the good in people these days, so maybe I try to turn a blind eye to this stuff so I don't have to dwell on it. Obviously, I am not a fan of Capital Punishment, but I do admit that a lot of these guys are probably better off in prison than in society. That's not to say that they can't change. Many do. It's just that some people don't know how to move past the errors in their lives (this is true in your world, too, so hang on to those stones for a little while longer).

I guess I really had no idea what to expect about the other men behind bars prior to my arrival in this world. I've watched plenty of prison dramas, like HBO's "Oz", so I guess I expected Death Row to be filled with inhuman monsters, sentient plutonium, glowing from over-exposure to the reactor cores of hate. I mean, whenever you see a photograph in the paper of some prisoner, it's always a grainy mug-shot. I think you could make Bambi look like a thug with a photo like that. I guess it's a measure of the colossal amounts of hypocrisy in my life that I assumed this. I knew I wasn't a monster, so I should have known that the same system that rolled over me could do the same to others. But I'm an ignorant boob, and I came here expecting to live next to Charles Manson (who, it turns out, isn't even on a Death Row). What I found was simply a microcosm of the world. Like most Americans, I knew very little about the law and absolutely nothing about the Capital Scheme (the real term) here in Texas. (I'm not going to explain it all, if you are ever interested in learning how the system works in the real world, check out David Dow's Executed on a Technicality, published by Beacon Press.)

I think most people just assume that murderers end up on Death Row when they are convicted. The fact is only a very small percentage of convicted murderers are sentenced to die. In theory, these are supposed to constitute the most "heinous" of criminals, though in reality, it has everything to do with who gets what deals, who gets decent representation, and which prosecutors actually follow the law. In this country, it is the District Attorney, not the crime, which determines which cases are to be prosecuted for death. They will claim that this is a casual relationship, but even a casual inspection of a few cases blows this claim out of the water. (A quick comparison: When I was in FBCJ, I knew a guy named Steve Carrington. They eventually got him on a 1998 murder, then a later murder of a child, then a separate sexual assault of a child. He was eventually given like 57 or 58 years. My fall partner, Chris, was given a non-capital life sentence for shooting my mother and brother. I'm sentenced to die. You can't really say that one is "worse" than any other. So, why the extreme disparity in sentences?) Basically, DA's prosecute easily winnable, high publicity cases for death, as this is a great career move. If they lose, they can lose their job, so there is a lot of pressure to win. It is a tough job, one I do not envy of them. That said, this relativity in determining which men are to die doesn't seem to really bother anyone, even when you have a scandal break, like the one currently surrounding Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal. Suddenly, people are saying that they have no confidence in his decision making skills. But nobody wants to take it a step further and suggest that maybe the most kill-happy DA from the most kill-happy county in the US shouldn't have sentenced so many men to death. Personally, while I have zero respect for Mr. Rosenthal, I think it is sad that after seven years in service, all his Republican friends dropped him like a bad date. But this is neither here nor there. Forgiveness means we extend grace even to irresponsible DA's. My point is this: people always claim the Death Penalty works because the system does. When they are shown conclusive proof that it does not, they conveniently disappear. Anyways, the men around me bear witness to the fact that the machinery of Justice needs a retooling. There is love here, and hate. Kindness and cruelty. Unfortunately, cruelty is always so much more...apparent than kindness. You tend to let it stick in your mind longer. I secretly think this says something about our fallen nature, that when we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that it is usually easier to do things we aren't supposed to do. I, myself, tend to forget the countless times I saw some inmate share his dinner with an indigent friend, because at the same moment, some poor dude was getting beat up in the showers. Bible studies get ignored behind the shakedowns and cigs and fighting. Pretty soon, despite your best intentions, these things crowd your vision until they are almost all you can see. So, even though most of what I'm talking about today focuses on the negative, it is important to remember that beneath (or above if you like the metaphor better) all the ugliness, there is always something beautiful, if you can only focus your vision correctly. Something to think about during the evening news.

Prisons are violent. I don't think anyone disputes that. Since I live under admin-seg conditions, however, violence is pretty much limited to the occasional spear-launching. So, I'm going to confine my descriptions to what I observed in the county jail, though the things I've seen are pretty much the standard, not the exception. You probably know someone who has spent at least one night in County Jail. It might be a learning experience to talk to them about their memories of that place. Don't be judgmental though. Remember, they are doing you a favor by helping you grow.

When I first got out of the separation wing, I had some nebulous idea that gangs were the primary source of violence behind bars. I had zero real experience with such groups, unless you consider the National Honor Society as a criminal organization. I don't know...I guess we could stab you with a protractor or something. Ha, I just got a mental image of a group of chromed out pocket protector wearing hooligans, camping out in the Linux section of CompUSA, running out all the citizens. Anyways, my observations led me away from the belief that most inmate on inmate violence is gang based. Not to say that this doesn't happen, because it does. I'm just saying that some of these groups actually stabilize the environment, a sort of penal detente, if you will. In most TDC facilities, the gangs, or "families", as they are known, run large portions of the unit. This is not an exaggeration. A comprehensive list of all the affiliations would probably take several pages, and I don't know them all, anyways. In general terms, most of the tanks or pods in which I have lived had at least a few of the following: Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Bloods, Crips (Community Revolution in Progress), Vice Lords, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Houstone (a regional gang from Houston which has partnered up with a few other city-gangs to form TANGO blast, which stands for Texans Against National Gang Organizations), and the Aryan Brotherhood. They all have a hierarchy of command, though as a non-member, I am obviously unaware of the actual architecture of this. It's really none of my business. While I have a lot of fondness for some family members, I pretty much treat them the same way I do everyone else, with a combination of distance and respect. What they do is their business, so long as it doesn't involve trampling upon what is mine. I've been in some tanks where the tension was palpable, and you just knew that something massive was about to kick off. You just try to stay out of the way.

I am one of the least racist people I know. I have noticed that a lot of people with less than pristine self images share this aversion to racism. Basically, I've always had a hard time seeing humans as anything other than malfunctioning machines with faulty wiring and buggy programming. I guess I think we are all equally retarded and broken, so to believe that anyone is "superior" to anyone else based on some external characteristic is a fundamentally egocentric error, and any "Evidence" a person could give to back up such a philosophy is simply designed to aggrandize the believer. That said, the system IS racist. You could be walking the picket line with the Black Panthers one day, but if you hit the jailhouse, you best recognize that nobody is going to back you up for your racially progressive thinking. This race consciousness isn't a personal thing. It has nothing to do with what you believe, or what your desires may be. I'm a white boy (A huge minority in the penal system), so I have to be thinking, always. When I first went to jail, they parked me in admin seg, though I am still a little unsure as to why. After six months of this, moving into General Population was a shock. The first thing that happens when you hit a tank is this: everyone is going to size you up. Lets say you are mid-20's something white kid. You've got your sleeping mat, your commissary box, and all your property in your hands. You are trying to find which cell is yours, while at the same time, you are trying to figure out the lay of the land. The first thing you better do, after you put up your stuff, is greet the other white guys. Establish you have "back". You have to let them know that you recognize who your friends are. Say you are ignorant of this. Generally, one of the other white guys is going to come introduce himself. He's trying to determine if you are just "green" or whether you really want to be left alone. Once the other groups see that you are alone,"one-deep", as it is known here, they have two options. The first is that they leave you alone. The second is that they give you a heart-check. There are a lot of politics involved in this heart-check, and many permutations for it. Basically, it is a test to see if you are a b$@!# who won't defend himself. The Mexicans and the Blacks want to know this for economic reasons. If you won't fight, you are going to end up paying somebody for protection. It doesn't really matter too much whether you win or lose this fight, it only matters that you man up. The White guys want to see this, too, because this is the jungle and from an evolutionary point of view, what good are you to the tribe if you can't even defend yourself? As untasteful as it might be, you'd better lace up and get in there, because this is one on one. Those are the best odds you are going to get. If you say you aren't going to fight, you basically are severing all support from anyone. Once that happens...things get real ugly, real fast. Of course, if you are the only white guy in the tank (as has happened to me on a number of occasions), then you skip all the politics and go straight to the ugliness, do not pass go, do not collect 200 bucks. Once you see that you are alone, your best move is to simply put your stuff down, and look everyone in the face and say, "Ok, lets go ahead and get this over with." This benefits you in a number of ways. First, it is generally considered bad form to send five guys at a single dude in the corner "manning up". If you don't do this, they will gang rush you up in your cell. This isn't Hollywood. You do not win a fight against five or six people, not when they have the slightest idea how to brawl. And they do, believe me. You only have so many effective fighting planes on your body, and all of them require certain angles and time to move. I have many years of Aikido and Krav Maga, so I know a little something about this. One on one, I am going to win more than I lose, but against five...not a chance. Anyways, the other benefit of going straight to the corner is that it lets all the old school cons know that you are one of them. This will help out in the future. I read somewhere that successful prison living depends on finding one or more of the three C's: Cold, Crazy, or Connected. Hitting the corner shows that you are either cold or crazy, or both. Again, none of this is "you". It's just part of living here. The alternative is so much worse. You might find yourself buying everybody dinner and washing dirty laundry if you are lucky. If you aren't lucky...well, you can apply your imagination to the conclusion of that sentence.

This was all very difficult for me. I had no reason to dislike these people. I just wanted to be left alone. You have to recognize very quickly that it doesn't matter what you want. Like I said, this stuff is going to happen. After you pass your heart-check, things calm down for the most part, especially if you really throw someone around. Once the mexicanos found out that I spoke fluent Spanish, and had actually lived in Mexico for more time than most of them, I was generally accepted. Often times I acted as "speaker", or go-between, for the whites and the Mexicans. I would like to think that I was able to calm a lot of frayed nerves. It's very difficult for a Christian in this world. You see so much that is evil, and no matter how hard you try to stop it, it's never enough. In the face of all of this nastiness most everyone takes one of two paths. Most people get overly aggressive, seeking to vent all of their worries. It all adds up, their cases, the fact that they have let down their families, the guilt, the loneliness. Once all of this reaches critical mass, fights start. You know that whatever started the fight, it's almost never about you. I try to remember this. This immature attitude is sometimes referred to as "new school". New school's primary tenant is "always look out for number one and f- the rest of the world". We refer to it around here as "getting down for yourself". It used to be a bad thing to be a snitch. Now everybody is a rat. It's disgusting. If you have to have some white snob from the suburbs tell you how to be a convict, something is seriously off kilter. The other path is the way of the true convict, the internal way. You spend your time learning to draw, or paint, or write. You clean your cell religiously every day, making it spotless. You write letters, even if you know they will not be answered. You work out, not the hectic, showy displays of the man-children down in the day room, but the slow methodical muscle-burn-worship up alone in your cell. You make schedules, plan your month out.

We are a dying breed, I think.

All in all, I've learned a lot during my time here. From one perspective, this has been the greatest growing experience of my life. I wouldn't change it for the world. And I know that I need to pay for my mistakes (society needs this, too). I've been criticized for my stance on the penal system and I guess I need to say that I am not some anarchist that wants to do away with prisons. This country, all countries, need them. I'm simply saying that they need to be run better, more efficiently. This will only serve the goals of the Justice system better, by providing a more well balanced and educated parolee. Don't we all want that? Let's help these men move forward, and turn this steel tomb into a steel womb.

© Copyright 2008 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Art by Armando Amaya

Armando Amaya K75877
Stateville Correctional Center
P.O. Box 112
Joliet, IL 60434

Friday, February 1, 2008

An Alternate View

February 1st, 2008

When leaving a dense forest, one thing you have to consider is that you are going to have to stand there for a few minutes, blinking and gaping like a moron while you adjust to the light. I think I am still in that phase, sometimes. I have this very intense and constant desire to edit everything I've ever written, to clean it up, and make it less imperfect. I will say that I think I am learning to laugh at my foibles, rather than beat myself over the head about them. I've said some pretty undignified things the last few months, and I have no excuses. All I can say is this: when this is all said and done, you are going to have a rather interesting (I hope) map of what a person goes through during the years preceding an execution. I hope this ends on a much higher plateau of maturity than where it began, but whether or not that happens, it will surely be a textured landscape of ups and downs.

All of us look at death differently; it is an intensely personal experience. So, it's only natural that each inmate on DR will have a distinct impression of this journey. With the assistance of a friend in the world (thanks S), I have made a small list of websites from some of the men around me. I have a secondary reason for publishing these, and this reason is that part of transparency is admitting when you are wrong. I have gone to great lengths to verify all that I write about, but sometimes this is not possible, and I must rely on second-hand information. So, I thought that it might be a good idea to extend to you all series of alternative view points, in the hopes that the combination of voices will help you better understand this world in which we live, and correct any errors I have made.

Disclaimer: I do not support or condone the viewpoints or actions of any of these men; their opinions are their own.

Alvin Kelly (Link no longer available)
Executed by the state of Texas 15th October 2008.

Gene Hathorn
This guy writes better than I do.

Derrick Jackson
A good piece called "Actions and Re-actions".

Clinton Young

A wide assortment of writings and poetry. Also, there are some "use of force" videos, showing what happens when you "fade the team", or battle with the guards. This is probably not suitable for children or those who are sensitive to violence.

William Irvan (Original link no longer available)
A good example of what happens when prosecutors don't care about truth, only victory. Starring the beloved Kelly Seigler.

Cleve W. Foster III
Another innocence plea.

These next few I have less data on: (link no longer available) (link no longer available) (link no longer available)
Happy Reading!

© Copyright 2008 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved.