Creative Commons License

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

Yellow flower glowing under the sun
Photo by Jillian Wesner

I wore the bruises with pride,
but the thing I had to hide,
you could only see through my eyes.
So I looked down. Ashamed of who I was,
who I had become.
Something sick and twisted,
disguised as a four letter word we called “Love.”

I remember falling, not into love.
But deep into a pit while
you buried me from above.
I watched you, bitter dirt
in my face, filling my throat.
I cried out for help only to choke.
Dirt filled my eyes
until there was nothing to see.
You shoveled the dirt until I was no longer me.
Covered with filth and grime, your job was done.
Down below without air, the soil and I become one.

Living deep in the ground with maggots and decay,
Nourished by the soil, quenched by the rain
Mother Earth reached out her arms,
“My child,” she said. “I know you are lost but please know,
you have the power to overcome, the ability to grow.
Begin to look inside and you will see,
the pain that brought you here will set you free.”

I fell to my knees and looked inside deep,
down into places my demons would creep.
I unpacked every box with caution — unease —
fearing the contents, a contagious disease.
Shattered dreams and deep purple scars
from nightmares and broken hearts.
I picked up a box labeled “Forgiveness.” It was shiny and new.
I forgave myself first, which was long overdue.
Then, I started to work on forgiving you.

With the weight of the pain no longer there,
A strange sensation wafted through the air.
Sharp like electricity, radiating out.
It was then that my legs began to sprout.
I grew taller and taller, reaching towards the sky.
Up and up I went, shoveling the dirt aside.
One last push at the top and I was through
Fresh air at last and a beautiful view.
The healing I’d done had planted the seed.
My pain was the key to setting myself free.

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.

Cassie Rieb is a poet incarcerated in Colorado.