From my window this morning, I watched the trucks pull in and out of the main gate. Inmates driving tractors, and unloading pallets of freight on the back dock. Past the heavy layers of fence and wire, I can see fields that seem to go on forever. What looks like patches of cotton, are actually prisoners tending to the acres of crops that surround the unit. One behind the other, they are surrounded by guards who continuously circle them, shouting orders…all except for one: the High Rider. He stays just in the distance, with his shot gun and pistol. Never out of sight, carefully just out of reach.
I wish I could walk through those fields, smell the fresh air, and feel the blades of grass beneath my feet. It’s been seven years since I felt grass. This is unbelievable to me. Due to the length of my sentence and my classification, I am restricted from moving around the unit. Some college classes and the vocational class offered here, are not available to me. The classes that are an option require me to pay in advance because I do not qualify for any of the grants. When I became upset last year because I was not able to take an English class, the counselor remind me that I have “ten decades of time to do” and that inmates with less time were his priority. It’s disheartening when they choose to carve my fate in stone. I cast that stone across water because my faith resides in something much greater than man’s design for my tomorrow.
For all the things missing in my life, I still feel grateful for my many blessings. The people who have never left my side, I hold so dear. The ones who believe in me, and know whole-heartedly that I deserve a second chance. Each day, I’ve been inspired and encouraged by a true friend who has taught me about survival. Showing me priceless ways to condition my soul in the face of indescribable oppression and isolation. Awakening my spirit, and opening my eyes to the powerful things around me that I have overlooked for many years. The sole feather of a watching dove, the brilliant flight of an eagle. Teaching me how to meditate and how to align my heart and mind. Sacred ways the natives used to tap into their subconscious. This wisdom, from the emerald eyes of a man who has seen more then most could ever imagine. An old soul, the White Wolf, who walked through these doors at the age of seventeen. And now, twelve long years later, prepares to walk out of them. Beneath of his thick skin, somehow, his innocence still preserved. In a place where everyone wishes time would race by, you’d never imagine the comforting voice of your best friend telling you he wishes it would stand still.
There’s a place within us all where we keep our dreams, our secrets, and our fears safe. Where we pretend to know how to direct the course of our lives, and where all our enemies and burdens are unmasked. Life isn’t perfect and it’s only in our struggles and sufferings that we find those things that are immeasurable. Where we learn how to cherish the irreplacable and hold on tightly to the things that possess true value and meaning. And now it’s here in that wilderness where I search for solace, and where each breath I take becomes something I’ve been given, instead of something that has been taken away.
*dedicated to Charles Woodard*
-Keven James, December 12, 2013