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Poem-a-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 250 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary and audio by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is distributed via email, web, and social media to 500,000+ readers free of charge. The series is curated by twelve poets from across the country who have wide-ranging expertise and editorial perspectives. Learn more about the 2019 guest editors and revisit the 2018 guest editors and the poems they curated. Read more about Clint Smith's approach to curating February

My Eyes Have Seen What My Heart Has Felt

About this Poem 

I am part of an organization called The W.I.R.E (Women Involved in Reentry Efforts) and as a group we wrote poems about our experience being incarcerated and how it impacted us. My poem is based on real experiences I had to overcome during my prison sentence. I served eight years in federal prison as a first time offender at the age of 18. So I went into the system young, wild, and rebellious. I spent five years on and off in solitary confinement, but I still was able to complete all of the programs that were offered to me and ended up at the top of my classes. I believe writing is a major outlet for incarcerated women and men. “The pen is mightier than the sword.” So instead of us lashing our pain out on those around us, expressing ourselves with words can be a tool to receive closure, help, and to assist someone else who may have experienced something similar. People relate more, and really listen, when you have experienced the same thing they have and have overcome it.

My Eyes Have Seen What My Heart Has Felt

Guilty Guilty Guilty for actions that took my sympathy
Shackles around my wrist shackles at my feet
Prom and high school graduation these eyes will never see
My heart said, Oh well
At least you will no longer have to endure your daily home abuse
I grew into a woman unbalanced behind those wire fences
Recall (3xs) that’s all I knew
Always committing some illegal offenses straight to the SHU
These eyes have seen the bottom of boots,
Mace in the face,
The heavy blue dress while people watch you 24hrs a day,
A lock in a sock,
Shall I go on?
My heart was always heavy
when I constantly placed myself back in the same abuse
I thought I would escape
I knew I had something in me worth showing the world, but what?
Fighting my demons was real tuff
A peaceful life didn’t feel so ruff
I opened my mouth and people was shocked
That I could read, count, think, understand, listen, play chess, learn a trade
They started to see my worth
My eyes have seen a life the majority would have failed surviving
Rape, abuse, homelessness, parent-less, drugs, prison, mental health, failure
My heart became strong enough to finally love myself
And I finally looked up to the woman in the mirror 

Copyright © 2019 by Cheleta T. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Cheleta T. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

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