Photo by Sandeep Swarnkar on Unsplash

Born, abandoned, discarded, without a father. 
Enduring concussions by four, 
Feeling fear, curled up on the floor.
Behind hit, degraded, chased and hated, 
Yelled at and berated. 
Running away from preschool being victimized in the year, 
And again when I was captured, I was afraid and scarred. 

Eight years old I watched a shooting, an eye exploded.
My innocence ended.
Violence was normalized and justified.
Using weapons to prove I’d ride.
But I’m insecure, inadequate, shamed and unwilling to fight.
I’d rather cry, scream, and hope my parents make it right. 
But that was a shadow that slides, behind the embarrassment of a son who is not masculine. 
Such a shame about him
No! Not him, it’s me, a small child that felt unlovable. 
Began to feel something when I was getting in trouble. 

At 11, I found the reasons, adoption, racism and violence. 
I would never be safe, I tried tears and silence.
“Stop being a girl, you’re such a cry baby, what’s wrong with you, why don’t you 
Just fight back.”
No one thought, I just can’t.

At 12, I would be held down, my pets killed as the words whispered in my ear.
“You’re next, we’re going to kill you,” I felt empty, beyond fear. 
I would run to the streets and find my courage.
In alcohol, drugs, my violence would flourish 
Lie in wait, find weapons, steal and fight. First by surprise I would strike!
My shame was gas, it was fuel,
Me being small was what’s wrong with me so I used tools. 
Knives, guns, bricks, ropes, chains, and friends. 
I was never enough, I was nothing invisible, I had no face or heart to mend.
Cold, callous, senseless and violent. 
Forgotten, beaten, shamed, degraded but I was still left.
Sleeping in orange groves, train tracks and trunks of cars,
But I’m not getting hit, is this safe, all emotions seem so far. 

Don’t dare love me, don’t pretend like you cared. 
There is nothing more in life, that makes me more scared. 
I had no worth, I was stripped in solitary cells. 
Beaten by rivals and staff, getting dragged down hallways under the sound of bells.
Screaming alone in a concrete grave till I couldn’t breathe. 
Nothing would come out, crying, waiting for someone to intervene.

No one came and years would pass, seven arrests came and went,
Already broken, I crumbled in solitary confinement.
What have I become, formed from something without a face.
A shell of fear, shame and hate.
Would I make it out, ever to recover, regain my sight?
I’m hopeless, systematically hunted, beaten, afraid…. I would steal a life.
The nail in my coffin, I held myself, the sealing of a childhood of violence,
At 19 would be murderer, 10 years and a life sentence.

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.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Michael Nieto

Michael Nieto is a writer incarcerated in California.