Nothing to Hide


All this wasted time in a federal prison
I didn’t take the cotton out my ears and put it in my ears and listen
This isn’t the way to spend life, I won’t do this anymore
I’m still young and there’s a lot of positive things I haven’t done before

Incarceration isn’t built for rehab
And I’m educating myself, paying this tab
In situations I’ve learned to walk away
I refuse to be locked in a cell again, this to God I pray

Coming to prison was once a fear
I wake up everyday, can’t believe I’m really here
The devil’s inside me, I won’t let him put me down
And the day I succeed, I will make sure I wear a crown

I am the company I keep
And I won’t stop until I change myself, there won’t be sleep
Life is what you make it
And I learned we all make mistakes, nobody is perfect

I can’t keep up with the old me, I have a family to feed
Things will change, my liberty is all I need
I have to put my pride to the side
For when I’m back on the streets, there’s nothing to hide


  1. Ayden Jozwik on March 29, 2021 at 2:43 PM

    I thought this was a wonderful poem and I thought the theme of growth was beautifully elaborated on throughout the work. The first line of the poem about all this wasted time in federal prison is true in prison isn’t designed to be a place for rehabilitation even if it claims to be, and thus the responsibility of changing to become a better a person is placed on the individual in spite of their circumstances rather than because of it. The line “I am the company I keep” really hit me hard while reading it because it speaks both to the isolation that prison forces on to people and the resilience they must show each and every day in order to make it through to the other side with their wits still intact. VH demonstrates this resolve throughout the poem and I sincerely hope he is able to continue to endure the experience by continuing to write or express himself in some other outlet. The final line about having nothing to hide almost feels triumphant in how VH will not allow this experience to define him for the rest of his life. From reading this poem I get the sense that VH has learned what is truly valuable in life; things like friends and family, and for someone like me reading this it makes me step a step back and not only appreciate the things that I have in my life which are truly valuable to me, but to use the privileges that I do have to help others rise up and above whatever unfortunate circumstances they are in. There may come a day where I will truly be the only company I am have but I cannot let that stop me from continuing to try and change a system that is designed to keep people down and powerless and strip them of their individuality. Thank you for taking the time to write this VH, and if you ever read this comment I hope you continue writing because there is no experience that is without value. Good luck and stay strong.

  2. Torie Seagraves on March 30, 2021 at 9:28 AM

    VH, the vulnerability you present in this poem is appreciated. it really emphasizes the hardships of being in your position.

  3. James O'Reilly on March 30, 2021 at 4:55 PM


    I love this poem so much. Change is an important process inherent to the human experience, and I completely adore how this poem personifies that. We all grow through our individual experiences, and learning from them is one of the most valuable parts of life itself. I think the only criticism I have is that I didn’t really understand the second line, but everything else is absolutely perfect. Honestly one of my favorite poems I’ve read.

  4. Ashlen on March 30, 2021 at 6:18 PM

    VH – Thank you so much for writing this poem. The line “I can’t keep up with the old me” and “Things will change” were especially impactful. The future is unwritten, but you can express your intentions and goals for it, and it is incredible to see you use your words to shape it. – Ashlen

  5. Maddie on March 31, 2021 at 1:01 PM

    VH, this poem shows so much strength. Although I don’t know you personally, reading this poem has shown me such a powerful side of you that you must hold onto. I know it can be easier to write words down than it is to truly believe them and carry them with you, but I hope you hold onto this determined sentiment as you strive to accomplish your goals. I wish you all the best!

  6. Kelsey on April 1, 2021 at 5:50 PM

    This poem is just amazing. I really love everything you said. It is inspiring.

  7. maggie on April 1, 2021 at 6:05 PM

    I really liked the flow of this poem and how it talked about the positives that could come out of hard times!

  8. ken on April 2, 2021 at 12:58 PM

    This poem is amazing! I like how you are saying what your goals are in the future. This is a very hopeful poem and it gives such great hope for the readers! Keep up the good work! and keep writing!!

  9. Cameron on April 5, 2021 at 11:09 AM


    I love how open you are in this poem. You’re right, everyone makes mistakes, but no one should be incarcerated for them. Rehab is a much better solution for a lot of people. I’m glad though, that you are working hard to better yourself. You have such a bright life ahead of you. I know everything fall into place!


  10. Kylie on April 6, 2021 at 12:26 PM

    This is a really beautiful and powerful piece! Every word rings with conviction and determination and I admire your resolve to flourish in spite of your current circumstance. I applaud the steps you are taking to grow and learn. Continue working and developing all of your skills and intelligence. Your writing is excellent and your creative voice is powerful. I hope that you continue to use it to speak up and speak out.

  11. Nicole Burkoski on April 7, 2021 at 12:24 AM

    What I love about this poem is the transparency of his thoughts into words. You can see the different directions his mind goes when thinking about his time in prison. He reflects on what he is going to do with his time in prison, what he will do when he is out, and how he feels about himself. What I always imagine in prison to be the worst would be sitting alone with my thoughts. However, the way this poem reads it is as if VH has made peace with his decisions. You can see the deeper level of introspection he is going through as he talks about wanting to change himself and facing the reality every day of waking up there. The style of his poetry resembles a journal of his thoughts which to me is so raw and even if the thoughts jump around you can follow the emotion and overall point.

  12. Brittani Forman on April 7, 2021 at 2:56 PM

    Hey VH,
    Thank you for expressing your feelings and letting us in. I hope you get out soon and make the best of the rest of your life.

  13. Julia Rinaldi on April 8, 2021 at 8:34 PM

    This poem was truly amazing and portrays so much emotion and futuristic goals you want in life. You are going to reach those goals, I believe in you! Everyone in life makes mistakes, and absolutely no one is perfect. I follow by “you live and you learn” which I think is the most true thing in the world. This poem is truly hopeful and you must keep writing! Thank you for sharing your art and talent with everyone.


  14. Michelle on April 10, 2021 at 9:21 AM

    Your openness and vulnerability is truly something inspiring. You are very raw about your feelings and situation and that you are working on making yourself better so you never have to go back. You are going to do exceptional things!


  15. Kaia Pronger on April 12, 2021 at 4:12 PM

    This is such a beautiful poem. You are honest, vulnerable, and open. All the things a poem should have. I can tell you really dug deep to find your true feeling and emotions. My favorite line is: “The devil’s inside me, I won’t let him put me down.” This is such an amazing line, it shows how strong and powerful you are and becoming. It is raw and honest and you broadcast your fears and your demons, but you also show that you are stronger and can resist the temptation. This was a wonderful piece.

  16. Callie Cloran on April 13, 2021 at 11:12 AM

    Hi VH, This is a powerful poem. I am honored to read how you are feeling and I appreciate how vulnerable you are. You have a gift of writing. Keep your head up!

  17. Anna on April 14, 2021 at 11:21 AM

    I love this poem and the strength you are showing in it. Prison is not designed for rehabilitation and that is something that needs to change. For the time being, the growth that you have done by yourself is very impressive and is something to be very proud of. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance. You have your whole life ahead of you and you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to. Good luck and keep up the hard work!

  18. Billie Marcheva on April 16, 2021 at 9:46 PM

    Hey VH,

    What a fantastic poem. I really love your work.

    From your last line, I’m assuming there will be a time when you will be given your freedom back and this makes me so happy for you. The transition to normal life will be so hard but you have already faced so much adversity that I’m certain your resilience will not let you fail. It may not seem like it but there most certainly are a plethora of beautiful ahead of you.
    It’s hard to imagine that the sun will ever shine when we’re in the heart of winter. But the weather changes and so does life. Things will be different than they are now. They will be better. You just have to get to that point. And I believe in you.

  19. Morgan on April 19, 2021 at 8:17 PM

    This is a great poem about having nothing to hide. I enjoy your vulnerability showing through the writing. It is amazing that you state what your goals are and that you realize mistakes may have been made but that you are working on yourself. Great job!

  20. Alexa on April 19, 2021 at 9:20 PM

    I can really appreciate how vulnerable, open, and honest you are in your poem with the reader. Your poem really conveys the message of change and how important it is to keep moving forward, despite current circumstances. It is inspiring.

  21. M on April 20, 2021 at 12:28 AM

    HI, VH,
    I enjoyed reading your poems. I hope that all the visions and goals that you dream of accomplish happen one day. I believe that whatever you decide to do in life, you will be great at it. By the way, I can tell that you are very passionate and driven. I hope you keep up the amazing work and know that I believe in you. Thank you for sharing.

  22. Annie on April 20, 2021 at 8:14 PM

    Such a powerful, touching piece. The growth you’ve experienced and your determination to change are evident. It’s also inspirational for many people, no matter what their struggles.

    My favorite lines: “I’m educating myself, paying this tab” and “And the day I succeed, I will make sure I wear a crown.”

    I’m confident you will succeed. If every person who made a mistake or has regrets had your mindset, the world would be a better place. Thank you for writing this!

  23. Nicole Nowicki on April 23, 2021 at 4:08 PM

    VH, I absolutely loved this poem. You conveyed your mindset so well about your determination to make this a time for growth. I’m so sorry that you had to go through such an inhumane system. Prison isn’t built to for what it claims to be, but I’m really happy that you’ve taken this time to reflect on who you are and what you want to be when you get released. It takes a lot of courage to own up to your mistakes and work on healing yourself, and I’m proud that you’re working to make the most out of your situation. Your poem was absolutely beautiful, and I felt like it conveyed your emotions extremely well. I was able to understand your mindset and I could feel through your writing how determined you are to make a change and help yourself grow. I admire your positivity and strength immensely, and I hope you continue writing. It was very inspirational and intimate, and I can’t wait to read more of your work. I hope this letter reaches you well and that your days are filled with peace.

  24. Edmon on April 24, 2021 at 12:27 AM

    Hi Im Edmon and Im in a class that aims to engage with the community beyond the university and corporations. I really liked your poem because it had so many life lessons in it, such as how you shouldn’t be your mistakes but become a better and stronger person because of them. Often I feel that is lost in this society. Good job and Good luck in the future.

  25. Sachi Amin on April 25, 2021 at 12:22 AM


    I really loved your poem! The rhyme was good! Exposing your vulnerability is the strongest thing a person can do!
    I also love your poem because you mentioned about how people make mistakes but you should not be locked up as punishment. Instead be sent to rehab, which I agree because prison does not do anything for the individual. I’m happy that you’re working on being a better person. I wish nothing but the best for you!

  26. Mallory on April 25, 2021 at 5:03 PM

    This poem does an excellent job at conveying and expressing emotion. I can feel your pain and frustration at your situation and the system that put you there while at the same time sensing your hope for brighter days ahead. I agree that the prison systems neglect of rehabilitation measures is maddening and unjust. Thank you for sharing and best wishes for your days ahead.

  27. yanira on April 30, 2021 at 9:30 AM

    Hi my name is Yanira, im currently writing in class about prison education and my professor showed us bout this workshop. i really loved this poem the way you allowed yourself to be vulnerable in it is amazing. You can really feel your emotions through it. i completely agree with you on how prison isnt a rehabiliation even if they try to paint it to be. the thrive for you to want to change and see the need to change is amazing and i commend you for that. Thank you so much for sharing your pain and emotions and i hope you accomplish what you have planned for your life. i wish you nothing but the best.

  28. yanira on April 30, 2021 at 9:36 AM

    hello my name Yanira, i am currently in class where we are writing an essay about prison education and my professor showed us about this workshop. i really loved the way you allowed yourself to be vulnerable in your peom i could really feel the emotion through it. i completely agree with you on how prison is protrade as this rehabilitation but it is not at all. i love how you thrive to change and see the need to i truly hope you succeed and get to the place in your life you want to be at. i thank you for sharing and wish nothing but the best for you.

  29. cm on May 1, 2021 at 2:16 PM

    Hi VH, I am a student in a college class called Writing and Community. It is an English class with a focus on community service and service learning where we interact with organizations outside of the university to enhance our learning. I really enjoyed reading you poem. I thought it had a great message about growing and changing, even though prisons are not built for rehab. I am inspired by the way you seem to be educating yourself, growing into a person who will not rest until they reach their goals, and realizing that being with your family is worth the effort it takes to change old habits. I hope you continue to grow and you reach all the goals you have set for yourself. It seems that you have a talent for writing poetry, and I hope you continue to do so as a way of expressing yourself. Good luck in the future!

  30. Annie on May 1, 2021 at 9:00 PM

    This is really beautiful, while I may not understand what you are going through, I can feel the emotion in your words. I love the story you take me on throughout the poem. From start to finish I can see how your outlook has changed. Amazing job and I wish you positive days now and in the future.

  31. Brittani Forman on May 2, 2021 at 5:04 PM

    Dear VH,
    I like the reference to Get Out in the first stanza. Betty passionate and real poem. I feel very connected in a way that I am better understanding the author. I really like the vibe and flow of this poem. Please continue to write. Your truth and style is very intriguing.

  32. Aracelli on May 2, 2021 at 10:51 PM

    Hi VH! I think that this poem shows a lot of powerful reflection and conveys a good message. I also really like the rhyming scheme. I especially like the lines, “I am the company I keep/And I won’t stop until I change myself, there won’t be sleep”. It’s important to recognize that what we choose to surround ourselves with is what influences us, and I appreciate the desire to improve oneself, since that’s something that we should all work to do. Thank you for a powerful message of growth.

  33. Grace Denno on May 3, 2021 at 10:02 PM

    I am a student in a community service course at Wayne State in Detroit whose goal is to engage with the community beyond the university. When I discovered Free Minds I was immediately thrilled to see the connections build around your writings and heart, and what you have to offer is a powerful and beautiful gift to the community. It was a true privilege getting the opportunity to read what is on your heart and mind, your desires and passions, thoughts, and struggles. You have so much to say, so much wisdom to give, and such deep experiences and desires to share with the community that people from all walks of life, backgrounds, beliefs, and ages can deeply connect with and affiliate with. Keep engaging with the community and making your voice heard. You bring healing, hope, and renewal of mind to many who have the privilege to share in your poetry. I hear your wrestling so deeply through the lyrics of this poem. The theme that I got out of your poem was a desire for hope and happiness and a greater quality of life, not just in the sense of being released back into the world, but in being released from internal strife and having peace and hope once again. The desire to be able to use your life for good and a positive purpose- to live in an honest and renewed light. I thought it so powerful how you discussed how we often shape our lives and no one is perfect or capable of living a flawless life. However, despite that, you pursue something so bold and rare in this world, humility. “I have to put my pride to the side,” is such a powerful statement and claim, not only as a personal mission for yourself, but as a challenge for all of us reading this. Thank you for your challenge and pushing us to be better.

  34. Reid on May 6, 2021 at 6:42 PM


    Great poem. I love how you convey your growth, prospects, and your frustration at system of incarceration. I wish you nothing but the best for today and the future. Never stop writing.

  35. Ayzhiana Basallo on May 11, 2021 at 1:50 PM

    Your poem was such a nice reflection of who you are . So many things that you feel and that you want to do to improve yourself. I respect it.

  36. Fin on May 18, 2021 at 4:21 PM

    Hey Vh,
    Really enjoyed reading through your piece here, I definitely got an overwhelming sense of you expressing your emotion through the words you chose. I also think that acknowledging your vulnerability is one of the hardest and most admirable things you can do, so bravo to you, that’s definitely something to be so proud of!
    Thanks so much for sharing your work, best wishes for the future.

  37. Julia on September 20, 2021 at 5:34 PM

    This really is such a powerful piece of writing! You really expressed yourself and I appreciate you’re honestly and vulnerability. I can see the growth you have made and I hope you find writing as a place to escape negativity. You are 100% right that no body is perfect and I think we can all forget to forgive ourselves and move on from hardships while comparing ourselves to others. Keep writing and express yourself, because I would love to read more of what you can do!

  38. nisha on October 17, 2021 at 4:02 PM

    I really enjoyed reading this poem as it was well-written. I really hope you can achieve your dreams soon, and you expressed the growth and understanding during this process. I agree that you can be the best version of yourself when you are free, and I wish you the best. Stay strong!

  39. Gitta Rogers on October 17, 2021 at 5:22 PM

    This is a powerful poem. I love the way you connected each line. This poem shows me the growth and change that you are going through right now. I love that you can express your emotions into words.

  40. Shaili on October 17, 2021 at 6:00 PM

    Thank you for sharing this – it’s inspiring to read about the self-awareness you have and the determination to change. Keep up the writing and best wishes to you!

  41. Chynel on November 4, 2021 at 12:14 PM

    I love the raw vulnerability you put in this poem. The reader can definitely feel the truth that lies within and comes across in your poem. Great writing!

  42. Francisco Salinas on December 7, 2021 at 12:05 AM

    Hi VH. I am a student from a class that engages in active communities. I remember the phrase growing up: “sacrifice who you are for what you will become.” In regards to growth, potential, hope, I wish you the best. I have read a few poems on this website, and might I just add that yours is one of the best. And if you ever read this and think I am fibbing you for encouragement, I would just like to say that your poem connects to me with growth. Honest to God. I do not know how weird this sounds since I am in a school setting, but to me college is hard work. I often forget how fortunate I am to be in this scenario, because I get mad at the school system when I get a bad grade. I always have similar experiences of wanting to grow. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, especially since your poem is about rising up, but it made me want to feel what a brother is feeling inside a prison. I really wanted to know how you felt apart from the lack of sleep and wasted time. Perhaps that’s it though. Perhaps my brain is too stimulated from the resources that I have that I do not know what it is like to have the absence of it. Those are my honest thoughts. I hope it didn’t sound like I was throwing my life away, because your poem inspired me to do the opposite. Thanks for sharing this with me and keep holding your head high.

  43. Kora on May 31, 2022 at 7:19 PM

    this is truly inspiring and I admire your desire to change yourself for the better. We are all always more than our past mistakes and I hope you believe that. The stanzas in the poem are written eloquently and I really like how you rhymed different lines. I hope you are making life what you want it and still choosing to express your thoughts and feelings through writing.

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The poets featured here are currently incarcerated, and many of them are in federal prisons far from home. Your feedback is a valuable source of motivation and connection to the outside community. Post your comments, feedback, and encouragement in the space below the poem. Messages will be passed on directly to the author. Comments may not appear immediately on the site, as our team processes them to mail to the poets.