Teen Poetry Collections

THE WAY I AM

 by a young man in juvenile detention, age 17

I’ve been in and out of jail
and in and out of juvie
I’m getting sent over to juvenile prison in a few days
I’ve heard a lot of bad stories about that place
but I’ll be o.k.
There’s lots of hard cases there
They don’t really care
They get into lots of fights and stuff and they’re never fair
I’m not really worried
I’ll just keep my guard up and know who I’m dealing with
Honestly, I feel like most of my life I’ve been locked up
Not in jail, but in my head
not being able to be who I truly am.
I can’t reach my full potential
because something’s always weighing me down.
It may not be four walls
but it can be in the way I think of myself.
Being in a cell is like being a bird in a cage.
When the caged bird sees another bird fly,
it looks like flying is a sickness
‘cause the caged bird has never been able to fly,
to see what it’s like to be free.
Not being able to call my family,
cause they were never there for me,
I grew up surrounded by people but alone.
Can you be an orphan when you have parents?
All that I’ve learned that in my life
has been from the streets.
The way I walk
looks like I just don’t care
but really it’s a bad leg
that makes me look like a pimp.
The way that I am
is a product of my environment,
South Central Los Angeles,
going to sleep with gun shots in the air,
crack heads on the corner
seeing dead bodies as a kid.
I saw one out my window, puddle of blood around his head.
Whenever I heard gun shots
I ran to the window to see what was going on.
The judge calls me a menace to society
but I can’t be no other way.
It’s what happens when you grow up on the streets
not making a lot of friends,
always getting into trouble.
Inside,
I’m just a good guy
in a bad situation.
I’m gonna keep my head up
like a king not allowing his crown to fall.

Dedicated to my life