From the shore of Cleveland’s Lake Eerie, to the bank of Chicago’s Lake Michigan, I’ve always felt a special wonder for waters — living ponds of motivation and delight.

Originally I came as a six-year-old to live with my father in Chicago’s Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods. Sixty years later, I still retain in memory the awe of meeting a promising people who were engaged in doing positive things, and all of this juxtaposed to the glory of Chicago’s parks and waterfront.

Over time, tides have risen and fallen. Light breezes have given way to seasonal storms, as I, too, have experienced a warmth found in a family’s love and in education, as well as the cold and desolation found in incarceration — the one my blessing, the other my curse.

Yes, I continue to look up and cling to early inspirations and hopes as my light now dims and my days dwindle, feeling confident and comforted in knowing the next life promises to be greater than the first, and on a far distant shore.

Part 3 of 4, The Halfway House Poets: Words of Faith by Former Inmates

Background on the series by Brandon Crockett:
About eight years ago, I began teaching a poetry class at St. Leonard’s Ministries, a halfway house for individuals recently released from prison on Chicago’s near west side. I went there, fresh out of college, with the anticipation that I would cause a paradigm shift for the residents and help them change their lives.

What ended up happening was far different.

It quickly became clear to me that the difference between those who spend time in prison and those who don’t is negligible, at best. True, our circumstances vary, but we all have the ability to choose how we respond to our current situation in the ever-present now.

It is in this that I choose to place my faith. And it is here that freedom is found.

By Jesse Anderson

High winds howl in the black of night,
Shimmying tree branches rise as if in fright.
An omen true of something approaching still,
Ill-fate’s advance, many lives to chill.

The seed was planted very long ago,
Rejected and lamented it continues to grow.
Despite our efforts to keep it at bay,
Fear and doubt plagues us yet today.

Through storms and struggles lives are tossed,
Taking some to the brink, their days near lost.
Prayers for mercy and redemption spring from pleading hearts,
That search daily for warrants of hope, or brand new starts.

For those confounded in nightmarish worlds of gloom,
One thing should give peace and a little room.
When all else has failed, or seems unsafe,
Stability and strength can be found in keeping the Faith.