Open Link Night #178 – Saving Grace

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Hello poetic friends, today it’s me Björn who hosts, and it’s always hard to fill this with meaning, after all it should be your poetry that is the subject. However I thought that this time I would give some space to one of our poets who only participate in Open Link Night, and after reading about him a bit more I think you would understand why. With no further words here is Sean who blogs from madpoetenchained.wordpress.com/

Hi, this is Sean Michael. I’m a prisoner in California, and am here today, at Björn’s request, to let you all know who I am and what poetry means to me. I am a man who had a difficult childhood with drug-addicted parents and a cruel foster parent. I entered the state system in my early teens and have lived within the system as much as I have out of it. My own drug addiction led to my imprisonment for felony murder—a man was thrown from the back of a truck I was stealing and killed. I didn’t even know he was back there; I heard yelling but thought it was the same voices I frequently heard in my head.

I wrote my first poem at the age of eleven. Poetry came to me as a saving grace during a turbulent time in my life while I was in foster care. Poetry and I haven’t always gotten along though. Once, in a depression, I read through the poems in my composition book and decided they were stupid. I lit them on fire in the alley behind my place of employment. I decided I wouldn’t ever write again, only to discover later that it wasn’t entirely up to me.

Writing was a gift that was given to me by the universe to be cherished, nurtured, and cultivated. Ultimately, my poetry was meant to be shared with others for them to relate to, to be inspired by, to be amused by the ramblings of a madman at times, to decide if they like it or not and what they can take from it. The reward for me is knowing it’s there for these reasons and having gotten what I had to say off my chest.

Since I’ve come to prison, poetry has become my way of communicating with the world, of letting them know, “Hey, I’m not done yet.” Poetry and writing in general has given me some sense of mental, spiritual, and emotional freedom. Freedom to create and freedom to express, and, hopefully, writing will help me stay focused and sane, and perhaps, lead to my eventual physical freedom.

Depression and darkness of spirit plague me, causing me to cry out and to inflict pain on myself. While I now have medications to help me with these moods, many times in the past poetry has been my only road back to sanity. As those of you who have read my poetry on Open Link night have most likely observed, my poems reflect this darkness within me. I write about my tortured childhood, my drug experiences, my mental difficulties, my life in prison. Here’s a poem I wrote years ago with no name:

I saw my life flash before my eyes:
lonely days keep passing me by.
I hold back the tears, cuz I can’t cry.
What’s the point in living when I am dying inside?

All of these thoughts are tormenting my mind,
true peace I’ll never find.
I struggle and I strive,
waiting for the angel of death to arrive.
How can I explain my pain?

A lot of people talk about what they don’t really know.
That smug look on their face makes me want to
rip flesh from their skull,
as my serrated blade tears through their soul.

Time has made me colder than a corpse.
I’ve been married to misery;
I think I need a divorce!

When I was first incarcerated, my anger overwhelmed me, and I felt a constant need to prove myself as a tough guy not to be messed with. I got in fights and had to be subdued more than once. As a result, I have no access to computers or the Internet. My maternal grandmother very kindly types up my writings and posts them to my blog at WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, and d’Verse. I am grateful to be able to share on d’Verse even though it takes time for me to respond to poems and comments—sometimes as much as a month. (All of my correspondence with Grandma is by snail mail.) I’m always happy and often surprised by the responses I receive to my poetry.

It has long been my dream to have a book published and this month that dream came true. My first book of poetry, “Stygian,” is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Most of the poems are about my childhood and prison. I’ve also written an autobiography and am working on a book about prison. I paid for Stygian to be published by Page Publishing, but don’t have the money to do that again, so need to find an agent—not an easy thing to do.

Here is one last poem called “Endless Tunnels of Darkness.” I wrote this one in 2014.

Endless Tunnels of Darkness

Living a life of complete unpredictability
Chaos and mayhem erupting in moment’s notice
The mind’s eye losing focus…
Some say prison is the easy life
But it’s the hardest life I’ve lived
And I’ve lived many:
The invisible child, the troubled teen
The broken man
The addict and the dealer
The lover and the thief
The wounded and the wounder
The outsider, the creep
But in my cell I am nothing
I am no one
Searching for identity…
From what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard
This world inside these walls is so absurd
necessitated of survival
More blood is shed
On the yard a war erupts
But amounts to nothing of the war inside my head
Nowhere to run or escape this insanity
Stripped of nature
Deprived of humanity
My ears ring with the sounds of calamity
The musical masterpieces of tragedy
Composed in vanity
My madness, my obsession
Become the objects of my depression
For the answers I’ve sought only harbor further questions
Until desire and will is strangled of breath
And what was good and decent is mangled to death…
And now, as clay, I am molded into failure
And one more chance is never enough
A spirit is torn in anguish and scorn
I scream and scream and scream
The walls respond with echoes
mocking me, always mocking me
Then settle in murderous silence
Watching me, always watching me
The fucking walls
I beat my fists upon them
But never do they shudder
I kick and punch and scream
Until the sun sets through a narrow window
And the walls become endless tunnels of darkness
through which I tread…

————–
I wanted to bring in Sean because there are so many life experiences in this community, but Sean’s has to be the most extreme. As you might understand he has no access to Internet, so all updates and responses are done by his grandmother who prints out poems and do responses. Therefore it can take some time for Sean to come back.

What do you think, is it a good idea to learn a bit more about some of the poets as part of the Open Link? Does it inspire you? Does it make you curious for more?

Anyway now it’s your part: Today you can link up any one poem below. This can be an old favorite, something you have rewritten or entirely new. Then the fun begins, browsing around for all that poetry. If you are uninspired, maybe you can start to read, and get inspired. Or if you have missed any of our previous prompts you can use that.

Remember to comment on poems, and take part in the discussion below.

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