The Gates of Hell


Everywhere I walk someone else uses a rusty key to go through
The Gates of Hell
And I’ve aged with all the rusty keys slowly dying in my prison cell
My once lovely brown eyes have turned pitch black like the darkest stone
For I’m hurting inside, the pain deep within my every last bone

Gang Affiliation and criminal activity, that’s the path I chose
And my so called “friends and family” are gone and my life’s been put on froze
When the heat of the sun hits my face I can’t tell if its sweat or tears that I’m tasting completely
For I’m anxious, I’m sweating, I’m hurt, I’m crying, and it’s only my life I’m completely wasting

I was moving fast on the outside, being put in here they moved quicker
And sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy my mind gets even sicker
Headaches cloud my thoughts and I imagine that my brain is bleeding
For a little comfort, I have none, love’s been what I’m needing

I’m tired of telling stories and I just want to do my time
For I know how to pay my debts, this tale is truly mine
There’s no escape but across the fence I can see that the grass is a
Marvelous green
And I feel like my life’s been a movie and this a long dragged out scene

24/7 I feel that I’m a temperature rising fire
For if I don’t make some changes I’ll be looking down at my dead
Body, my spirit ascending higher and higher
The gates of hell, “prison,” one day I’ll walk no more
And then I’ll hold the keys and I’ll forever pray til then that I
Finally choose the right door

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  1. lalypop01 on November 17, 2021 at 1:03 PM

    The image of the gates of hell is so eye-opening. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and vision.

  2. Meg McTaggart on November 17, 2021 at 1:04 PM

    I thought that the rhyme gave the poem a great pace – it felt like it was speeding up as you were talking about the hours speeding by. Also, the images in the first part: eyes going black and life rusting away like the key, were so powerful

  3. Elle on November 17, 2021 at 1:19 PM

    This is an amazing reflection of your life so far – your words are so well-chosen and I like how conversational but also spiritual the poem feels. I hope that you will remember that, no matter what you’ve done in the past, you always have the chance to revise yourself, just like you would a poem. There is always time to choose that right door. Even if your life has been plagued with violence and wrong choices, you can start new every day – the only thing you can do is keep trying to be the person you needed on the outside.

    Please know that there are people out here who love you, no matter what you’ve done or who you’ve hurt. Every person is special, sacred, and a work in progress. I am so sorry that your family and friends were not the support system you needed, and I pray that you will find a better support system one day who will encourage you to continue working on yourself, who will catch you when you fall, and who will love you unconditionally. You absolutely deserve it. You are worthy.

    Keep writing poems. This is an absolutely beautiful, heartbreaking piece, and I can tell that you have put a piece of your soul into it. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that you write about, and know that you matter.

  4. Sadie on November 17, 2021 at 1:28 PM

    The whole poem is wonderful, especially the last three lines.

  5. Ezra Dayanim on November 19, 2021 at 11:48 AM

    The imagery of prison representing Hell and the various miseries you have experienced while inside are very powerful and are really impactful

  6. ken on November 19, 2021 at 2:15 PM

    This poem was amazing! You had so much emotion behind it and the readers can tell that you are passionate about what you are writing. Keep up the good work!!

  7. Daniel on November 26, 2021 at 3:20 PM

    I really liked how you didn’t explicitly say what the “gates of hell” are in the beginning of the poem. The mystery combined with the heavy back and forth of accepting the paths that you chose makes the revel of the gates of hell at the end even more effective. Very engaging and thought provoking. Nice work!

  8. Aditi Furtado on November 27, 2021 at 11:19 PM

    Hi VH. My name is Aditi Furtado, and I am a freshman at Wayne State University in Detroit. I’m currently enrolled in a class that is attributed to Service Learning which aims branch out to communities that is beyond the university and other corporations.
    I was very touched by your poem. I am someone who is more of a reader than a writer and reading your poem really put so many things into perspective for me. Being a new adult, I have learned so many things about life and how I am supposed to carry out tasks that have shifted from my parent’s responsibility to my own. Thinking about this, I can see your frustration of not being able to carry out your responsibilities and get to see your life lived to the fullest and for that, I am very sympathetic. I find it very admirable how you keep hope and live for the day that you can put this long, dragged out scene behind you.
    While I can never fully understand the heart ache you must be feeling watching life move past you, I’m so sure you will be able to get to do everything you are looking toward very soon. I’m sure the way you write your poems must be very therapeutic and allow you to find a way to vent out your thoughts.

  9. Clayton on November 29, 2021 at 10:48 AM

    What an eye opening piece of writing. Incarceration is something I haven’t experienced, yet this drew a picture for me. I wish you the best.

  10. Stephen DeSantis on November 29, 2021 at 10:56 AM

    I loved the word choice in the poem. It really makes you keep reading and it keeps your attention on the poem. The story line and background info also really interested me and I wanted to see what it would say next.

  11. tnicholson13 on November 30, 2021 at 7:42 PM

    VH, wow. This poem hit me hard. You have a the great ability of expressing real emotion. I worry for you and am praying for you. Don’t lose hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  12. Ella on December 7, 2021 at 5:15 PM

    The use of descriptive language here is very powerful to me, you did a great job of really painting a vivid picture in my head. I like how you have a sense of self-reflection in your writing, being able to identify past mistakes is a really valuable skill and your ability to incorporate it into your writing is very cool.

  13. Francisco Salinas on December 8, 2021 at 12:42 AM

    Hi VH. I am a student from a community class that seeks to help out in a few ways. First thing: I was trying to dissect the meaning of the poem. It took me a few reads to get it through. I think what struck me as interesting, before I get to it though, and don’t take this the wrong way… it was that there was a fence that was visible to the outside world. I’m not sure if this was figurative or literal. I always had the thought that in a prison there are brick walls preventing you from seeing the outside. Just a thought. Anyways, I believe the first line is representative of how every time you walk in the hallways, you see a new person enter prison. I think of the door in the end as a pathway that you can take for how your life will turn out, which goes back to the beginning of the poem where you have the opportunity to go through a door with a key. My interpretation is that the keys are normal in the beginning (as I interpreted by the lack of adjectives before the word “key” in the end) before you make a choice, but as soon as you pick the keys leading to the Gates of Hell, they rust and the value of the choice is clearly shown. Them dying and your eyes turning pitch black may be symbols of how painfully consuming prison-life is, along with the other aforementioned metaphors. I believe with the fences that show the outside world, that when the opportunity comes, the right door will bring you home. One last thing I would like to point out is that I was excited because I guessed the Gates of Hell were a prison, and when you declared them so in the end, it made me feel great about myself. I always like reading these stories for the symbols and the perspective. Thanks for sharing yours with me. Take care for me, homie.

  14. priya787 on December 12, 2021 at 2:39 PM

    Wow, well-written poem! To start off, I loved how you described the pain in your eyes, the changing of color, that in itself is so powerful, full of symbolism. Also, I found lots of comparisons that were so intriguing. Like, “my life’s been a movie… a long dragged out scene 24/7” and “I feel that I’m a temperature rising fire.” When you write similes and metaphors, it allows the reader to truly understand the point you’re trying to get across. I can put myself in your shoes somewhat. You cannot lose yourself unless you have lost hope. Smile, laugh, find joy in the smallest things. There is still light in the darkest of darkness. Find it, hold onto it, and embrace it. Remember, you are never defined by your past. No matter how micro or macro the mistake. YOU ARE MORE THAN THAT! Keep on pursuing poetry and never stop expressing yourself. Words are powerful, influential, and soothing. Keep your head up and “choose the right door!” 🙂

  15. Brooklynn on December 12, 2021 at 5:00 PM

    I love how you poured your heart out in this poem. I find your writing daunting and powerful. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, stay hopeful. Your strength is inspiring and this poem is beautiful. Keep writing.
    Best to you.

  16. Faith on December 12, 2021 at 8:20 PM

    Hi there! I am currently taking an online class that aims to freely engage with the community of writers from outside of university and corporal standards. I chose to “review” your poem because the title “Gates of Hell” caught my attention. While I was reading through the poem, I noticed that the “hell” that is mentioned is made to be something more tangible. To be more specific, when people think of the word “hell” they may think about the place known as hell that is the opposite to heaven. However, in your poem “hell” takes the shape of the tangible prison that you had been trapped within. Does this mean that the meaning of the word hell is being used in an incorrect way? No. In fact, I think that redefining the word “hell” by giving it meaning makes it feel more real to both the writer and the audience who is reading this poem. I believe that you have a very creative mind that knows how to give words new meanings that are more relatable and understandable to the reader!

  17. on December 12, 2021 at 9:42 PM

    This poem is really well written, and leaves a lot of imagery for readers to imagine in their mind. I like the positivity at the end as well! Well done!

  18. Gabe on December 13, 2021 at 2:53 PM

    Dear VH,

    Your poem caught my eyes with the powerful title. While going through your poem it made me feel sadness and loneliness. Some of the words that were powerful and made me really think about what you were saying were “I’m crying, and it’s only my life I’m completely wasting”. It seems that you’re really thinking about the effect that prison has taken on your life. It also tells me that you’re thinking about the rest of your life. The other part that really made me think about the hidden meaning was the stanza where it says, “I feel like my life’s been a movie and this a long dragged-out scene”. Not only does it rhyme but it gives me a mental picture of what it’s like in your eyes. In the end you tell us the setting which is prison. It was a beautiful poem and I hope you keep writing!

    Sincerely, GR

  19. Billie Marcheva on December 15, 2021 at 10:07 PM

    Hi VH,
    What a powerful poem. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. I hope you’re able to walk on that greener grass soon. I know you’re hurting now and I feel for you so much. You deserve better. You deserve peace and fulfillment. Until you reach it, I know your incredible strength and resilience will fill you with hope and propel you along. You’ve been through incredible hardship. You know how to get through anything, head held high. I’m proud of you. Keep fighting. I believe in you.

  20. Joe Fargo on December 21, 2021 at 1:33 PM

    VH, this poem is incredibly powerful. I appreciate the clever rhyme scheme and the way that your end leaves hope. I hope you are doing well, and I appreciate you sharing this.


  21. Will on December 26, 2021 at 3:03 PM

    This is such a powerful piece. I can feel the deep pain and emotion behind the start. It really allows me to see the struggle you have experienced and how that has impacted you socially, physically, and mentally. One of my favorite parts is the last stanza, I can feel the rhyme scheme that you have set, being slightly faster than the first part of the poem, and I think it really enhances your message and mentality that you want to do right and are giving your effort to that.

  22. Roxanne on January 8, 2022 at 10:33 PM

    Dear VH, Wow. You’ve written a very powerful poem. I can imagine your struggle, regret, pain, and hope all in a few words. The way you express yourself is so vivid and raw. I can tell that you have more to say about your life so I hope you keep writing. You have a lot of skill with words that could further explore your choices and circumstances and even what you imagine comes next. Keep at it and best wishes. -Roxanne

  23. Maddie on January 10, 2022 at 10:24 PM

    That was beautiful. I was able to truly feel your pain through your words. Plus, the way you were able to create rhythm with your words was very impressive! I wish I could express my emotions through poetry like you did.

  24. Temp Johnson on January 26, 2022 at 8:33 PM

    VH – Hang in there. Your poem, your words so touched me. Your pain, your struggle, your soul crying out in your words. I hope writing this poem gave you back some relief. You are a unique and powerful writer. You have a gift! Keep writing. And thank you, Temp

  25. James on February 27, 2022 at 6:38 PM

    Hey VH, I’m really sorry to hear about the pain you’ve been going through, and I wish I had a way to help. I know that kind of emotional pain is really hard to get through- I’ve been feeling a lot of loneliness too lately, and it’s a bitch. It sucks to feel like you’re stuck on the wrong path because of mistakes you made when you didn’t know any better, and it’s shitty how powerless it makes you feel. I hope that things can turn around for you soon.

  26. Caleb on February 27, 2022 at 6:40 PM

    Hi VH
    Your poem impacted me because of its visceral imagery, I can tell how intensely you feel about your circumstance and its quite cathartic to read it being articulated so well. The parts about imagining your brain bleeding and eyes turning to stone is quite powerful and I appreciate your words.

  27. KC on April 7, 2022 at 4:40 PM


    I can feel your pain through the images you create. I love the part where you can’t discern tears from sweat. This conveys that you feel such sadness and exhaustion to the point you can’t discern the two. However, I hope you find joy in your life. You are valuable and strong!

  28. Nasim S. on April 25, 2022 at 12:19 AM

    Thank you for sharing this poem. Your emotions and experiences are honest and well-written. The rhymes, the symbolism, and the structure of the poem show how talented you are in writing poetry. The prison system is unjust and while I may not understand your pain, I empathize with it. It comes through in your writing. Keep holding on because I really do think you are closer and closer to holding those keys!

  29. Kiri on May 9, 2022 at 3:15 PM

    I relate to your poem. Feeling like you have lost yourself, but still needing to get so many things done. I think that your poem does a really good job of displaying intense emotions. I like how in the beginning and end, the message comes back around and wraps up the poem nicely. I do think that the rhymes at the ends is the stanzas could be a little more consistent.

  30. PA on May 11, 2022 at 7:13 PM

    I love the passion in your words. I feel like I can hear your voice narrate it to me as I read. Keep up with the poetry, my friend. You’ve clearly been through a lot and I hope you channel the lessons, the pain, and all that into beautiful art like this.

  31. Justin Lambert on July 13, 2022 at 12:26 PM

    I really liked this because self-reflection is something that I seldom remember to do and this was a great reminder of why doing so is important. None of us are infallible so I have to believe that redemption is possible. Your description of being incarcerated was quite vivd and there’s no doubt in my mind that it can be quite a painful experience. Thank you for taking the time to share that pain with me.

  32. Jill on October 9, 2022 at 6:43 PM

    The use of imagery in this poem is extremely powerful and I appreciate you sharing your story. I think your poem is easy to read and by telling your story you may help others who might be feeling the same way you are. I hope you stay strong and keep up the amazing work with your poems!

  33. Nora on October 23, 2022 at 7:03 PM

    The comparison between hell and prison is brought to life by the refence of the rusted key. The line about the darkening eye color to show the change in you was powerful. The description of your pain brough your poem to life. Your brain is bleeding for little comfort is a powerful and a moving line. The first and last stanza tie your poem together. Understanding your path and waiting for it be actualized is portraited throughout the poem beautifully.

  34. kayley on November 9, 2022 at 9:44 PM

    This poem was fantastic! The readers can tell that you are passionate about what you are writing since you poured so much emotion into it. The poem’s word choice was fantastic. It urges you to keep reading and maintains your focus on the poetry.

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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.