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A Path Chosen

NHA Magazine, June 15, 2004, NCM Award Winner, Son Tran Posted: Mar 26, 2009

How many times have I wandered astray on the chosen path before me, only to crave a new path at the forked cross?
All my life I have wandered endlessly with no regards for the future, my future. No plans or desire to do anything with my life but to live selfishly, enjoying the pleasure of a drifters life. Till the day I found myself on Texas death roweven then, it took a few years before I understood the opportunity that was before my eyes, within reach of my hands, if I chose to reach out with fingers to grab, to hold, to make a change in my life, and perhaps, help make a change, an everlasting impression in the lives of others.
Through years of experiencing life on the streets, vividly I recall the lessons it taught me, and what it did to me, as I slowly conditioned myself with a plate of armor to hide my inner emotions. My eyes are not blind, nor does my heart lack compassion or remorse. I simply did not express it; the troubles of my mind and turmoil of my heart were for me alone to deal with, fight over, and work out. I usually managed to do as much, caring little about how others perceived meheartless, emotionless, remorseless. Because I did not live by what others thought of me. I did not let their opinions dictate my life.
I only lived as I pleased and chose. Was my life not mine to lead?
But perhaps thats why I sit here now, expressing a part of me that would otherwise be forever locked in my heart. What am I seeking for this unnormal act of self-expression, with thoughts I share, the secrets of my mind, to the open vulnerability of my heart? Is it to seek sympathy or pity? No, it is seeking for you to momentarily know meme as a person, me as a human being, me as a boy whos matured into a man, but mostly me as who I now am: Son Tran, a condemned prisoner who resides on Texas Death Row.
Two monkey seasons old. Twenty-four summers my eyes have been fortunate to see; life around me has become a masterful painting no penitentiary walls can deny. No longer do I call myself a drifter. A man without a course to follow. Because I am now a man with a purpose who possesses a sense of direction in life. True, I can no longer live my life as I once did, for the shackles of mans oppression have found my flesh; but the will of my spirit refuses to be oppressed, or denied its chosen path.
Daily confined behind walls so thick that sounds of nature are elusive: the slamming of steel on steel, the yelling of mans despair, and the sad but forced laughter of men condemned, are all I hear. Most days pass uneventful. Even on the day someone is executed. These walls do more than confine and isolate men; they break down their bodies, minds, spirits, and cause them to surrender, believing its better to submit to the systems design than to fight. And, refuse the oppression of being denied food, recreation, commissary, visitation rights, mail, etc., thinking that if they simply comply everything will be okay, or get better. But they are only fooling themselves. Because even basic privileges and rights are slowly being taken away day after day.
Each cage for each man is a world of his own. Over 450 men are sentenced to die. So many of those worlds consist of what many see as the inevitable. Others are filled with endless dreams. Some are plagued by the ills of insanity. Then there are the few who still cling to hopelooking beyond the concrete walls and razor wire-lined fences for a place that allows them to cast reflection and give voice to the cruel and inhuman conditions in which they exist, in the hope that they can create change, that even if they arent alive to see it, it will at least be possible for the next man. This is the world in which I live.
What is my story? How is my life different from the next man? Where does it all begin?
I dropped out of school in the ninth grade. I was a bright curious boy growing up, and did well in school. During my early teens, my eyes caught the glitter of the streetsand I fell in love with themhead over heels. They educated me in ways no school could. But they also continued to blind me, and caused me to rebel against all that was good for me.
In the fall of 1997, at the age of 17, it all came to a head. I was arrested and charged with capital murder. And in late 2000, at the age of 20, I was sentenced to death. My arrival on Texas Death Row came shortly thereafter, in early 2001.
During the years of my incarceration, I tried to seek an education, one that I had denied myself so long ago. But I wasnt allowed for whatever reason of convenience the prison administration chose to invoke. I came to the realization that if I wanted an education I had to do it myself. I began reading, writing, drawing, devising poetry, and everything else to better myself.
Sadly, one of my childhood dreams was only achieved because of my incarceration. I had always wanted to write poetry, even dreaming of one day becoming a famous poet of my time! However, it took getting incarcerated before I would even take the steps to make this a reality. But this dream has opened my eyes to something I also never would have imaginedusing poetry as a form of speaking out, reaching for the ears of the masses, and teaching others about the chaos within these walls. Poetry became an instrument for me to voice the unseen, and to bring the plight of prisoners across America to light.
As the days pass by and I reminisce on my younger ones, I smile at the memories I now cherish. Because this tomb can imprison my body, but these walls will never invade my mind and steal me away from me. If anything, they are allowing me to find out more and more about my true self, which hopefully is someone I may continue to reveal to you, and to the world.
This is my chosen path.

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