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An aerial view of a city neighborhood at night time
Photo by Peter Nguyen on Unsplash

Look back at the anonymous child who shelters in place
from the cold, convinced the world is unnurturing.

Look back at the doors life dragged me through,
gateways to all the cultural beliefs but never beyond.

Look back at the sum of my choices.
I pretend everything happens for a reason.

Look back at the desperate prisons I constructed for myself,
long before I came to prison.

Look back at the long night of tears. My conscience weeps
over the procession of faces — I’m their regret.

Look back through the multiverse, count all the lives I
could have built if that day hadn’t happened.

Look back at change —
the next minute offers an endorsement.

Look. I can breathe again. A perfectly imperfect
alchemist turning my hard things into gold.

I’m much better off for the looking. More
humble, wise, repentant, knowing I’m my own answer.

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.

Dennis Jefferson Jr. doesn’t think of himself as a writer, but one who respects the power of words. He participates in charity drives, volunteer work and self-help groups, and he holds an associate degree in general studies. He is incarcerated in California.