What the F*ck is a Hero?

What the fuck is a hero? I wish someone would tell me, because on some real shit, depending on who you ask and where they’refrom, the answer to that question may totally go against the politically correct idea.

It’s like depending on what side of society, community, or social class people come from, their views may be extremely opposite on whatis “villainous” and “heroic” behavior.

Because if you ask a kid from Yale who his hero is, he may say Obama or Trump. But if you ask a kid from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn he may say Jay-Z or Big Meech.

Now to me, both answers are completely understandable, and neither is wrong .

Obama and Trump feed countries. Meech and Jay feed hoods and ghettos.

Presidents care about the country’s best interest. Meech and Jay went to great extremes to ensure the well-being of their friends and employees, which was one of their paramount concerns.

Trump bombs nations.

Meech set the streets of Atlanta on fire!

How can that young kid from Brooklyn be faulted for his choices when these are the only examples of success and “heroes” to look up to?

Society says people should fear “these types.” But the government keeps order and peace with the same threat of punishment. And in both scenarios, that can sometimes mean death.

Why should I fear a man who just fed and clothed my entire family? And the man in the uniform who society says I should trust just gunned down my next door neighbor for trying to get his cell phone.

And they got away with it.

Shit, that could be me next time! Now that’s something to fear, that kid from Brooklyn might think.

They say cocaine is evil. It kills people, and those who profit greatly from selling it deserve to never see the outside world again. But cigarettes kill people too, and nobody gives a fuck that people make billions from them.

Whose fault is it that I wasn’t blessed with the opportunity to even consider running for the presidency or running a corporation? And because I wasn’t, I don’t deserve to live a lavish lifestyle as those who were so blessed? I should never live like those in the upper echelons of society, but I should spend my life trying to obtain this by playing by society’s rules, with no chance of ever obtaining it?

That’s not fair. 

I guess what separates heroes and villains, in my opinion, is intent. It’s like: what is your purpose?

What I’ve learned in life is that the hand you receive, sometimes you catch a flush and sometimes that motherfucker bust. But you still have to call your best hand.

But what the fuck do I know? I’m a felon, they’re calling me a villain. But to me, I did what I had to do to support those who depended on me. And I bet if you ask them, it would be a unanimous decision. I’m their hero.

-Bruno Mamwalee

Review: "Out on Bail"

“Out on Bail” by Denis Johnson is a vivid look into the gloom and doom of the millions of watering holes across our planet. Often known as bars or pubs, a place where the selling of liquor is permitted. In this story, the bar is called the Vine. 

Millions succumb every day to the power of alcohol. Some lose their jobs, some their families, and these are considered the fortunate. For some have lost themselves and cannot even remember a sober time in their life, the alcohol completely clouding every aspect of their lives.

In this dark bar story, Denis introduces us to several memorable characters. My favorite is Kid Williams, a former boxer who is so caught up in drugs and booze he has totallylost focus of himself and who he is. Everyone knows someone who is a fully fledged alcoholic and Kid is him mixed with a dose of Amy Winehouse (may her soul rest in peace). Despite the many years of abusing his body with drugs, Kid maintains a towering figure and his lack of self-awareness has him walking around like a zombie ready to pounce. The erratic change in his tone of voice shows a war going on within his consciousness. He has lost sight of who he is. 

Denis holds back nothing, painting the picture of the numerous victims to the holy drink. “Glitter like cheap jewelry” is Denis’ way of waking up from a dope overdose. The same overdose that took the main character’s fellow victim, friend Hotel’s life.

“…monitored his breathing by holding a pocket mirror under his nose from time to time, making sure points of mist appeared on the glass.” If after reading that sentence, you do not envision mirrors being held under the nose of a Walking Dead zombie, your imagination has forsaken you. 

I am unsure what was more sad, Hotel’s death or the fact that Denis never gave the main character a name, making me become him in my mind’s eye.

Everyone has endured the message in this passage. Do not become a slave to your circumstances before it is too late. Hotel was only eighteen or nineteen and one of this country’s baddest epidemics claimed his young life. Addiction is a very difficult fight, and the many who have overcome their addictions can very easily relate to this story.

-Cesar Rivera

My Angel

I promised myself I would never, ever hang out again on a weekday. It was a Friday and I was feeling the after effects of hanging out Thursday night at the strip club. I was elated I was finally off work and on my way home. I opted to take the local train all the way uptown, so I was guaranteed a seat. I got the two-seater by the conductor’s door. I swear, as soon as I sat down, my eyes closed. It was as if they were on auto-pilot.

Have you ever felt someone staring at you? Well I felt like a hole was being burnt in me. When I opened my eyes, I swear I saw the prettiest lady in the universe. I’m talking shorty was a dime. Spanish mammita. Long black hair, hazel eyes, and her body was boom boom bam. Shorty had all the right curves. Not only was shorty sexy, she was fly from head to toe. She had on a Louis Vuitton blouse with Balmain jeans and red-bottom heels. She was wearing more jewelry than Mr. T. I’m talking icy earrings and a ring on every finger. Around her neck were a couple of fat ass Cuban link chains. Shorty was the bomb.

Me being the gentleman that I am, I slid over and asked honey if she would like to sit down. I thought she would say no because I was dusty and dirty from work. I work construction. I told shorty, “Please excuse me, I’m a little dusty.”

She said, “I don’t mind at all. I just love a man who works hard for his money.”

As she turned to sit, I just had to shake my head because shorty had back! I thought to myself, well there goes my chance to catch a nap on my way home. 

I asked her name and she said “Angel.” She worked at Merrill Lynch and lived in the Bronx. I gave her my name and also informed her I was single and lived in the Bronx as well. We kicked it and I could feel shorty was liking the kid. I looked up and we were at 125th Street already. Time does fly when you’re having fun.

People got off and on the train. That’s when I noticed the two punks checking me and Angel out. I knew they were up to no good, so I told Angel, “Don’t look now, but over by the door, there’s two punks scheming on us. Don’t worry, I got your back. I’m not going to let these villains do you no harm.” 

I asked her what stop she was getting off at and she said, “Parkchester.”

I said “cool,” because it was only one stop away from me, and I could take a cab from there. “If these villains happen to get off with you, I will escort you home. I know these punks won’t try nothing if I’m with you.”

Sure enough, her stop came and when she went to get up to exit the train, the two villains also got up. That’s when I proceeded to get up and exit the train with Angel. The two punks saw this and I could tell they were disappointed.

I walked Angel all the way to her building and just like I thought, the punks got lost. She thanked me with a kiss on my cheek and proclaimed that I was her hero. 

She asked if I smoked weed and I said “why of course.” She then invited me upstairs so I could smoke and said I deserved a nice home-cooked meal. I said sure. It was my lucky day.

We proceeded to enter the building, and I followed like a lucky puppy. 

We got to her apartment and Angel was definitely into interior design, because her spot was laced. She told me to make myself comfortable, there was beer in the fridge, and the remote was on the coffee table. She was going to change into something more comfortable.

I went and got a Heineken out the fridge and put on ESPN. That’s when I heard the shower turn on. I said to myself, “Shorty comfortable, leaving me out here.”

Twenty minutes went by and Angel called me. She asked me if I could pass her a towel out the linen closet. Me being the gentleman that I am, I passed her the towel while turning my head. I then went back to my second beer and Sports Center. That’s when Angel came out with the towel wrapped around her hair and nothing else on. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was bad.

She motioned me with her finger to follow her, saying “Come, my hero.” 

That’s when my clothes started flying off me. I swear I must have broken the speed record for getting undressed. Shoes, socks, and my shirt were flying everywhere.

By the time I left the living room, I was down to my boxers. When I got to Angel’s room, she was on the bed, ass up and head down. I proceeded to get in position and open the Magnum wrapper.

That’s when I felt it. It was light at first, then the second time it was harder. A tap on my shoulder. Then that’s when I heard it, “Last stop, last stop!”

It was the conductor. I fell asleep.

I told you I was tired.

I’m still looking for my Angel.

-Thomas Powers

With Wings

There once was a guy that always got high,
Wondered why, for what reason, all the time.
Not just a guy, but souls been locked up,
Most in jail and prison, asking for what?

As time went by, they just used it getting high,
Will they have a plan after all that time?
When we smoke, remember 1,000 cells blown,
Though the government incarcerated me,
we can still afford to smoke weed.

When will detainees really become free?
Not even guilty, ‘till that day torment me,
One day I hope to be released with wings,
Injustice behind bars, have devil horns growing.

-Khadeem Fraser


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
-Leo Tolstoy

It’s a little like my family. One day my wife talks nice, then the next time I call she talks crazy, so I ask her am I getting annoying or something, and she don’t answer me.

So I just be thinking, should I leave her alone? But the only thing is, she’s having my child. That’s the only reason why I don’t want to leave, but she’s acting crazy.

And I love her, but I’m still thinking, do she still love me like she used to? I want to ask her if she still wants to be with me, but times like this make me want to just stop calling her, writing her, and everything.

Like, you could do you, but the only thing is the baby. And I don’t want to be nothing like my father. I want to be better.

But what should I do? Wait it out, or should I let her go and just be a father?

-Isaiah Bloome

A Letter from the Editors

There is more than just a physical barrier between incarcerated people and those on the outside. It is a separation that goes beyond cells, iron bars, and heavy locks, and reaches deep into people's hearts and minds.

But there are some things that transcend even the most impassable boundaries. Stories, poems, and ideas—these things know no walls. And when we share in them together, maybe for a brief moment neither do we.

“Inside Out” is not only a title. It is also our mission, stated and reaffirmed with every piece we publish. To create something from inside—both inside ourselves and inside these correctional facilities—and share it with fellow readers, writers, and lovers of independent thought.

We hope you enjoy our stories, poems, essays, and artwork. Take a moment to consider the authors. They are neither statistics nor bogeymen, but people.

-The Editors