FROM THE INSIDE
★ ★ ★ ★
THE THINGS I’VE LEARNED IN PRISON
By Ryan M. Moser
Don’t Gamble. Don’t Borrow.
I like sonnets – especially Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus
It’s okay to Hate the decisions I’ve made as long as I still Love myself.
Life inside is dangerous and fragile.
How to fix a broken radio with wax, solder, and a nail file.
Trust no one, even my “friends”.
I don’t like being hit by redneck correctional officers.
If I’m walking to chow at dawn and look up at the sky I may see a shooting star.
A man can adapt to anything.
My biggest fear is losing a parent and not seeing them again.
Dirty basketball on a chain gang court.
I like classical music—especially Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’.
If I look up at dawn at see a shooting star it can remind me of the beauty in life.
How to fix sneakers with glue, packing tape, and shower slides.
Never give up.
It’s possible to put all of my worldly possessions in a 2’x3’x2’ metal footlocker.
I don’t like prison food.
My next biggest fear is getting killed in prison.
Sometimes I become an animal to survive.
I like reading personal essays—especially ones that deal with mistakes and rebirth.
How to cook with Ramen noodles, cheese squeeze, and stolen vegetables.
I’m not a good parent.
Street Spanish/Kitchen Espanola.
I don’t like seeing a man get stabbed for his sneakers.
Everyone needs a friends, even if you can’t trust them.
My next biggest fear is killing a man in self-defense.
I can change.
How to fight in a small area using elbows, knees, and my forehead.
I like art—especially Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ (because he painted it in a mental institution).
I crave companionship.
I miss my friends.
I’m not a good husband.
People are tribal, and that separation causes problems like riots.
I don’t like riots.
Change is good.
My next biggest fear is coming back to prison for my addiction.
How to make a shank from a flattened battery, paper clamp or a scrap of Plexiglas.
A good cellmate goes a long way.
Being kind is seen as weak; the sheep will be eaten by the wolves.
I may never get my friends back.
I like movies—especially romantic comedies, adventures, and indie films.
It’s okay to admit when you’re wrong.
I don’t like wearing the same clothes every day.
My next biggest fear is never seeing my sons again.
My family is in prison with me—metaphorically.
It’s okay to want to end it all, as long as you keep going.
I will go to bed every night with the weight of an elephant on my chest called ‘regret’.
As long as I’m alive, there’s always a second chance.
Ryan M. Moser is a Philadelphia native serving a 10-year sentence in the Florida Department of Corrections for a nonviolent property crime. A recovering addict, he has been published in The Evening Street Press, The Storyteller, and The Mindfulness Bell. Ryan is a proud father of two boys and enjoys playing music, practicing yoga, and watching his beloved Philadelphia Flyers on TV.
This column was made possible with the help of Exchange for Change, a non-profit based in Florida that teaches writing in prisons and runs letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers studying on the outside.
Exchange for Change believes in the value of every voice, and gives their students an opportunity to express themselves without the fear of being stigmatized. Their work is based on the belief that when everyone has the ability to listen and be heard, strong and safe communities are formed, and that with a pen and paper, students can become agents of change across different communities in ways they may otherwise have never encountered.