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Photo by Alex Zaj on Unsplash

I’ve lived my life in prison,
Born a convict’s son.
No treasures found,
No fortunes won.
Financed only profound regret
For all things abandoned and left undone,
Of friends and lovers,
I have none.

Honors come not
To my family crest,
Neither medals nor ribbons
Adorn this chest.
There are no shiny trophies
Upon the mantle perched abreast,
Absent are etched plaques
Declaring me to be the best.

I have won no accolades from valued peers,
Received no kudos, no applause, no cheers.
Awarded no certificates by educated colleagues in tears,
And although I’ve managed to earn a degree in heartache and failure
The tuition has been paid for by regret in wasted years.

My citizenship was forfeited
With both malice and forethought,
On the night my senseless crime spree ended
And I was finally caught.
Now I’m lost in a system
Where virtue is neither learned nor taught,
And chaos reigns supreme
Every vice is bartered and bought.

I am surrounded by stoney faces
filled with vacant eyes,
Trapped inside my own selfish desires
Awaiting a fatal demise.
The vivid memories of truth lurking always
In the dark shadows masked in white lies,
Where my only self-esteem comes from
Shame cloaked in pride’s disguise.

My name is my number
So says the paper sign on my door,
I’ve been cursed to drift from cell to cell,
But never touching shore.
I will never again be a person
Or the individual I was before.
One letter, five digits —
I am this and nothing more.

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.

Travis Britt is a poet who has been writing since he was a teenager. A devout Christian, Britt is enrolled in a master’s program for pastoral ministry and theology at International Christian College and Seminary. He is incarcerated in California.