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My backpack is full of grief, shame, trauma, abandonment, rejection, neglect and interpersonal disengagement.

Relationships have taken a back seat in my life. My childhood lacked adequate nurturing and bonding. I have had trouble forging healthy intimate relationships. Both of my parents were unavailable to me, which made me emotionally detached as a child. As a result, I quickly became depressed. Even then, neither my grandparents nor my parents nurtured me or took care of me. My history is full of substance abuse, and my education was inconsistent. I became antisocial and eventually went to jail. 

Things changed in 2018, when I met Deborah at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, California. She taught the Page to Stage class. The class introduced me to prose and nonfiction poetry, but more than that the class helped me to see the people around me in a better way.

I’ve learned I can create art from anything, just lying in my bed glancing at my surroundings, waiting for thoughts to cross my mind. Sometimes when my mind wanders, old instincts kick in and I think about steering clear of potential enemies. But things are different now, and I will not forget how I survived the dysfunction of my past.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Kenneth Moore is an African-American writer and poet. He is the author of the book “Subconscious Poetry” (available at and has had one of his poems published in the book “Silent Screams: Poems from Uncharted Territory” by Dr. Unique Shaw-Smith. He is incarcerated in California.