They Speak of Second Chances - Poetry - Teal Swan Jump to content

They Speak of Second Chances

About this poem:

A poem Teal wrote after having a very impactful meeting with three former felons on Venice Beach, in California to discuss ideas for Criminal Justice Reform.  

When I was young, 

I got a front row seat

to ‘the making of a criminal’.

I saw each ingredient that made him,

compile one by one.

When he took my childhood from me,

maybe I would have preferred  

to find him to be a monster. 

Something drastically different to myself. 

I could have demonized him. 

I could have relished in the goodness

inherent in my own victimhood.

But it just wouldn’t do. 

That front row seat

didn’t show me   

how we were different. 

It showed me how we were the same. 

It showed me what it is 

to play the same cards we were both dealt…


We are all just the victim of victims. 

It was the most valuable lesson 

that he ever taught me…


Today, I am chaperoned across the bedlam

by a man who robbed over 100 banks 

at gunpoint.

And two, who committed murder. 

Having lost so many years of their lives 

to maximum security prison, 

they are “free” now.

“Free” to be forever scorned. 

They speak of second chances. 

But all four of us know 

that the world grants none.

The Venice Beach Boardwalk

is a pedestrian promenade 

of human pain.

We trace its degenerative echoes 

with our footsteps.

But today, 

the colorful curses 

that adorn its flanks

can bring no affliction.

Because when faced with a world

that grants no second chances,

together, we are prepared to build a new world.   


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