Photo by Meor Mohamad via Unsplash

Jingle, jangle, jingle…shackled from my waist to my ankles. The sound of the chains rattled with every step I took. 

The old adage, “The anticipation of death is worse than death itself,” kept echoing throughout my thoughts as I walked slowly from the back exit of the Los Angeles County Jail parking lot to the black and white bus that would transport me to the judgement I wished I could avoid. 

Jingle, jangle, jingle…the sky was exceptionally clear that day, as if all the angels and other heavenly beings were in their seats wanting an unobstructed view of the Earth, on which I walked to receive my fate. 

Jingle, jangle, jingle…A sergeant and two sheriff deputies escorted me as I walked, slowly, ten inches to each step. 

Jingle, jangle, jingle…I stretched those ankle chains to their limits. I stepped on the bus and heard the soothing lyrics of “Missing You” by Diana Ross, but not even the sweet melody of her music could calm my nerves. I knew my spiritual demise was imminent. 

I sat alone in a steel cage in the front of a bus designed specifically for high-security prisoners. I stared out of the ugly brown-tinted windows secured with rusty black bars into the back window of a vehicle traveling adjacent to us and watched two children fight over a toy. Surely this was not what Rosa Parks meant when she said she wanted her people to be able to ride in the front of a bus without racial harassment. How ironic, I thought to myself. 

“We are now on the record in the case of the People versus Rodolfo Anderson… Mr. Anderson, would you please stand for sentencing?,” the judge said. “On a third-strike conviction for robbery, you are hereby sentenced to serve 210 years to life in state prison.”

From the moment I heard my sentence, I was dazed, lost in a maze of hollow halls and endless echoes within my own thoughts. An empty loneliness overcame me as I found myself once again in that steel cage, this time en route to the deepest jungle of hell on earth: prison. 

Late that night I was unable to fall asleep, my thoughts racing and my soul unsettled. I have always been aware of the possible hazards of my chosen street occupation, and I wasn’t about to cry over the price I now had to pay the piper—at least not yet. But I did feel that I was being overcharged, as no one was injured by my crimes. 

With so many feelings bottled up inside and no one to vent to, I composed the following poem, inspired by Tupac’s “The Rose that Grew from Concrete.” 

How Can a Rose Grow from a Concrete Ground? 

They fabricated, impeached, and violated my name,
It was a judicial lynching, of a man of street fame.
My swagger, charm, and intellect intimidates,
So they simply removed me from their state.
I’m in a cold, dark dungeon of eternity,
My spirit is shackled amongst a degenerate fraternity.
I’m deeply buried in a bottomless concrete pit,
In pain, abandonment, and loneliness, I forever sit.
My only escape in dreams I wrought,
A possible permanent abode? Hmm, I’ll ponder that thought. 
Why should a king be transformed into a slave?
Only because it was love, happiness, and wealth I craved.
How can a rose grow from a concrete ground?
I have yet to see it, because my mind is sound.
So I exist in a continual state of despair,
Now I must retire to the Sandman’s lair.
I crave that I should never awake,
I pray to my creator for my soul to take.

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Rodolfo Chico Anderson

Rodolfo Chico Anderson is incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison in California. He is working on his memoir.