Posted by: quoththesparrow | February 23, 2017


The cold feeling against my cheek woke me. I was lying on tile floor in a public restroom. Panic struck me. Where am I? I don’t recognize this place. How did I get here? Scrambling to my feet, my head spun. The cold against my feet made me look down and realize I had no shoes. What happened to me? I have no memory of anything. My dress doesn’t seem wrinkled, as though I slept here all night. My dress. Why am I wearing a dress? What was the occasion?

Suddenly the door to the restroom flew open. In came a woman in cocktail attire. She would have been pretty if she weren’t covered in bruises and festering sores. Yet it was me she looked upon with surprise and disgust.

“Ugh, they’re letting people like you in now?” She said through her scowl. “This place really is going downhill.”

“No, I think I’ve been kidnapped. Please, help me. Where am I?”

Pushing past me to the mirror, she scoffed. “No need to make excuses. You thought you could sneak in and we wouldn’t notice. But…” She turned and looked me over with disdain. “You’re too obvious.”

I checked my arms and legs. They seemed fine. Blemish free. Still sunkissed from the summer. What was happening? I looked back at the woman and she had a makeup kit out and was applying powder. She spied me. “I know you’re jealous, but it’s impolite to gawk.”

She moved her head to get a better angle with the brush, and I saw her reflection. Flawless. She could have been a model. Unbelievable. She was trying to ignore me. I moved closer. The wounds on her face were still obvious, but the reflection showed perfection. Was the mirror magic?

Her snarl brought me back. “Look, creep, if you don’t stop I’m calling security!”

I was taken aback. Movement from my own reflection caught my attention and I turned and gasped. I was covered in bruises and sores like her. I checked my arms and legs again, but they were still normal. I touched my face. No bumps from scabs. “What is this place?!”

“Somewhere you don’t belong.”

With that, I ran. Bursting through the door, I shouted, “Help me! I’ve been kidnapped!” Their glares burned. And I saw they, too, all were covered in bruises and festering wounds. I needed to get out of there and fast. Left, then right, I searched for the door. There, in the back. Without thought, I hurled myself toward the door, barreling over people. Their cries weren’t in pain or offense, but disgust. Just before the door I saw the mirrors. Like the woman in the restroom, they were flawless and I was the diseased one. I ran harder.

Outside, I ran until I was out of breath. Doubling over, I gasped, trying to catch my breath. My chest burned. At first I thought it was from running, but as my sense cleared I realized the air was putrid. Balmy with a stench of something, or hundreds of somethings, rotting. The sand beneath my feet was hot, and sticky. I looked and it was the strangest sand I’d ever seen. Deep red, almost purple in places. Thunder rumbled in the distance and I stood. The sky was odd. There weren’t just gray clouds, but yellow and bile green, too. Whether because of the people or the storm, I needed to keep moving.

Upon beginning my journey, I saw the city around me for the first time. The buildings had all been neglected and were in various states of decay. But no plants grew up in their place. No plant life anywhere, really. Even the mountains that surrounded the city were desolate. Not even snow. Desolate and jagged. And they stretched higher than any I’d ever seen. Then there were the mirrors. They were everywhere. I walked closer to one and saw not only myself as the diseased person, but that the buildings reflected were magnificent, like new, and the sky was clear blue. In my marveling I hadn’t noticed someone coming.

A low, gravely voice came from behind me.
“Mmm, you smell perfect.”

Spinning around, I was now on my defenses. Before me stood a man who must have been a city worker. Only, his eyes were scabbed over and his skin was a sickly yellow.

He grinned. “Yes, you’ll do just fine.”

With that he reached for me, and I bolted. Down the street filled with the red and purple sand I ran. As loud as I could I screamed, “Help me! Somebody! Help!”

He was far behind but I heard him clearly. “That won’t do you any good. They just hear squealing. They always think it’s pigs.”

A side street came into view and I took it. The bakery three doors down had its doors wide open. For the first time since arriving in this place, I smelled something wonderful. Like beef pot pie. The man was following my scent so I figured the bakery would mask it and so I ducked inside. Strangely, no one was inside. I took the opportunity and hurdled myself over the counter. I hunkered down and waited silently.

It didn’t take long before I heard the man. To my horror, he’d brought friends. My heart pounded in my ears. He barked at them to split up. One must have stayed with him because I heard him talking to someone.

“Oh, this one was sweet and tender, like a Christmas ham.”

The other person said something and he laughed. “The bakery? Nah, she’d be fool to go in there. Keep moving.”

Seconds later their voices were gone. I breathed easier, but then worried why he said I’d be fool to go in the bakery. I concentrated on my senses, opening my awareness of my surroundings. I saw my reflection in the metal cabinets in front of me and my feet were stained like the sand. I felt a presence on the other side of the counter and froze.

“They’ll be back.”

I was on my feet in a split second, ready to fight. With what, I didn’t know. But the person on the other side of the counter was a normal man. The first normal person I’d seen here so far. Even though he held an ax at the ready, something in me calmed.

“Are you the baker?”

“Yep.” The Baker’s voice was surprisingly quiet and calm. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Then why did that man say I’d be fool to come here?”

They’d be fool. I know how to kill them.”

He put the ax down and reached his hand across the counter. I hesitated, but took it and he helped me over.

“I found if I fight back, I don’t seem so appetizing.”

“Who or what are they?”

“Those particular guys are the Harvesters.”

“Of what, dare I ask?”

The Baker picked up his ax and motioned for me to follow. Outside, he scoped to see if the coast was clear. Then we slinked along, close to the buildings.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“I don’t remember.”

“How long have you been here?”

“I don’t even know anymore.”

I started to ask something else, but the Baker stopped, as did I. Two Harvesters hustled along a normal, but scrawny and scared person. He was gagged and they each clenched an arm. The Harvesters whistled cheerily. We followed, keeping our distance.

Before long we came to what looked like a below ground stadium. Windows rose up, angled inward around a circular structure. I heard the shouting of people.

The Baker led me to the side of a neighboring building and we climbed the fire escape to the top. On the roof, I surveyed the circular structure. Through the windows I saw cattle herded, crammed in. It was a pen. The Harvesters opened a door and threw their captive in. That’s when I saw that beyond the windows they were not cattle at all, but people.

“The windows are for the Superiors – the other guys. They see and hear cattle.”

A mechanical sound erupted and what I had thought was a giant circular lighting structure above the pen, began lowering. The people began to scream. The Harvesters stood at the windows and watched excitedly.

“Can the Harvesters see?”

“Not well.”

Queasiness welled up in my stomach. I realized the circular structure was a press. I tensed, preparing for what I knew was going to happen. A sickening crunch, and then the screaming stopped. The sand around the pen grew darker purple. The blood continued seeping out toward the streets. I glanced at my feet and began shaking uncontrollably. Then I looked toward the baker.


He shook his head. “The Superiors and Harvesters used to be human, that I know. Going off of what I’ve encountered, I’d say their arrogance and hostility turned them.”

A gurgling sound came from the streets. The buildings were sinking. I looked to the Baker in alarm.

“The city has been sinking for a while,” he said, dispassionately.

“Why haven’t you left this place?”

The Baker turned to me, his face a mixture of sadness and relief. “At first I did try to leave. But the more I tried and failed, the more the Superiors got to me. Eventually they fooled me into thinking I was the one there was something wrong with. I accepted that I’d never leave.”

“But now you’re helping me.”

The Baker fished in his pocket and pulled out a shard of broken mirror and held it for me to see. “When I first woke up here, I had this on me.”

I took the shard of mirror and examined it. My reflection showed me as I normally am, the healthy me.

“I think it was to remind me of where I came from,” said the Baker. “That I could go back one day. I don’t know why I ended up here. But I do think that you are my way home.”

Thunder rumbled.

“This’ll be the first storm I’ve seen here,” noted the Baker. “Looks like it’ll be massive. It’ll turn the ground to quicksand –”

“– The entire city really will sink… My timing certainly is on point. Maybe I am supposed to get you home.”

“I hope. The only thing is, I’ve tried every way and failed. It’s impossible.”

Suddenly, a light breeze brushed my cheek. The first breeze I’d felt here. It was sweet, like flowers and fresh water. I closed my eyes and opened my other senses, really taking in my surroundings. I followed the direction of the breeze through sense. Opening my eyes again, I turned and pointed at the highest mountain.

“Oh,” groaned the Baker. “I never took that one. It’s the most treacherous. See the sheer cliffs? No footholds.”

I grabbed the Baker by the arm and stared him dead in the eye. “We have to leave or we’ll die with this city, and we have to take that way!”

I turned and yanked his arm to follow. The Baker hesitated, so I yanked his arm harder. Still he wouldn’t budge. He stared wide-eyed at the mountain. I felt my face grow hot with anger. Thinking quickly, I ripped the Baker’s ax out of his hand and swung it toward his face, deliberately stopping right in front of his eyes. That startled him awake.

“I’m in charge now,” I barked. “We leave now!

The Baker nodded in respect. “Okay. We’ll take the treacherous way.”

And together, we hurried down the fire escape.

Posted by: quoththesparrow | June 16, 2016

Spirit of the Night


The clouds, black as ink, came rolling in from the horizon like ocean waves. Quickly, they seeped out like fingers and permeated the entire sky, then the earth.

I knew what was coming and ran, but the clouds were too fast. The cold enveloped me, tiny daggers stabbing me all over my body. In a flash all went dark. I couldn’t see my hands reaching out in front of me, feeling where to go. When the cold reached my lungs, I gasped from my breath being frozen inside me. I collapsed on my hands and knees. Panic rose in me and I began hyperventilating. The darkness grew thicker by the second. As it closed in tighter, the pressure was crushing. I was suffocating, making me panic even more.

Suddenly, from inside me came a piercing pain, knocking me onto my back. The pain twisted within me, causing me to writhe. I wanted to scream but I had no breath. The pain continued for agonizingly long minutes. Then it broke apart and the pain hit me in two spots, then three, four, until it spread throughout my whole body. Reaching my head, the pain flooded my mind with grief, heartache, anger, hatred, bitterness, fear – so many dark feelings it was unbearable. I clutched my head and kicked my legs, flailing. Still I couldn’t scream. Instead I began to sob silently.

And then, as quickly as the pain came on, it stopped. I could breathe again. The places where the pain had been now filled with warmth. Opening my eyes, I was almost blinded. Light burst from holes the pain had left in me. The light then dimmed and warmth filled me completely. My eyes began to clear and I could see through the darkness. I rolled over onto my hands and knees again. Only, my hands, as I saw, were no longer hands, but paws covered in sleek black fur. Examining the rest of me, I realized I had become a panther.

Thunder rumbled and I rose. My whiskers tingled and twitched. There was electric energy in the air. With agility I leapt, narrowly escaping the lightning strike. Black lightning. Again, I felt the electric tingle, and again I leapt out of the way. I bolted, the black lightning following, continually attempting to strike me, and continually I escaped. Eventually the lightning stopped. Thunder rumbled like a growling animal, as though voicing its frustration that it couldn’t catch me.

As the thunder rolled away, I breathed deeply. I was filled with a sense of confidence and purpose. I no longer feared the dark. I was now conquering it. Around me was the Midnight Forest. The darkness swirled between the trees like smoke. Forward I went, moving silent as a shadow.

The forest was quite beautiful, in an eerie, ghostly way. It was completely silent, yet there was a pervasive sense of sadness, of longing for something lost. What would have crushed me before now rolled off my back like dew.

Rather than slink around in the hidden places, I strutted down the central pathway, daring the darkness to do its worst. As I passed a tendril of darkness, it whirled and formed an image. I froze when I recognized it. The scene that played before me was all my failures in life. The longer I watched, the worse my failures became and the more mesmerized I was. I feared what could be shown. Could the darkness know?

A second later, ice formed in the pit of my stomach when I saw the dreaded moment. I was on the phone, I knew it was my sister on the other end informing me of our mother’s death. So sudden and seemingly without reason. I saw myself taking it all in. I remembered my thoughts.Overwhelmed by guilt because my mother continuously asked me when I would come visit her. I’d kept putting it off, saying I was too busy. She even asked me once if I even loved her, because she didn’t think I showed it. Now she was gone. After that I’d tried to run away from the pain through every way I could, trying to escape the guilt.

But a memory bloomed in my head and I was able to shake off the darkness. It was my mother’s smiling face on the screen of my computer. Holding up a birthday card from me, she opened it and a recording of my voice was heard singing a silly song. My mother laughed with glee. Then all the memories of the cherished times with my mother came back to me and overthrew the lies of the darkness. In that moment I decided to stop running. I turned back to the image in the darkness, snorted, and marched right through it. The picture dissolved into wisps. My fears were no longer relevant and would no more hold me back.

As the journey continued, along the way the darkness would form into creatures from nightmares. They may have been meant to scare me, but I merely stared them down, not breaking my path even a step. Occasionally the darkness formed scenes and I realized they were the fears of others. This was a forest of fear. Nothing personal. None taken.

Further down, the path split around a ravine and I made for one side. Erupting from the ravine came a bloodcurdling scream. Instinctively, I dove into the depths. With ease I landed on the floor and bounded toward the shrieks. There before me was a circle of humanoid creatures that looked like demonic children. They were closing in on a little girl. I ran faster. Leaping with full might, I soared, and landed in front of the girl. Facing the demons, I roared. The demons were startled for a moment. Then one charged me and I swiped it, clawing its face. In a second, they all attacked. In a fury, I fought the demons. I was far outnumbered, but by sheer prowess I stood my ground, slashing them down one by one. Once I pinned them, I tore their throats with my fangs. They’d burst into smoke when killed. Some tried to jump on my back, but I instantly shook them off. Others would try to catch my back legs and bite them, but I bucked, sending them hurtling backwards. Before long, I’d defeated all the demons. I stopped, my chest heaving, and caught my breath.

I turned to the girl. She couldn’t have been more than seven years old. She reminded me of myself at that age. Of course, she was frightened. It was then I realized my purpose. I was now to guide her. The best that I could, with my eyes, I told her all was well. She softened a little. I purred like a mother cat and tenderly moved toward her. For a moment she shrank back, but then relaxed. I stopped. Hesitantly, she reached out a hand toward me. I affectionately bumped my head against her palm. She giggled. “Nice kitty.”

I moved toward her side and motioned with my head for her to follow, and we journeyed on. A long time later, the girl started yawning and her eyes got heavy. I soon found the best tree. I lowered myself and she climbed on my back and wrapped her arms around my neck. I leapt to the lowest branch and climbed to where there was a large, comfortable looking crook. The girl slid off my back and sat down. She wrapped her arms around herself and I realized she was shivering. I made a u-shape around her, laying down. I purred and she laid back, nestling her head on my shoulder, and closed her eyes. Soon I began yawning. I laid my head on my paws and closed my eyes.

Sunlight woke me. The darkness was completely gone and the woods were now a normal forest. I realized I was back in human form. Beside me, the girl woke. At first she was startled to see I was human. “It’s okay,” I said.

Rising, I extended my hand. She took hold of it and I pulled her up. Together we climbed down the tree and ventured on through the woods. Before long, the forest cleared and we saw houses in the distance.

The girl pointed. “I see my house!” She turned and hugged me. “Thank you so much.”

She let go and looked up at me. I smiled. “My Sister, when there is darkness, I can be there for you. Anytime you need me, actually.”

“Will you always be a kitty?”

I chuckled. “Maybe. Who knows? You better get home now.”

She giggled and headed home. I watched as she became a speck in the distance. Then I headed on my way.

Posted by: quoththesparrow | May 22, 2016

Interview with Rap Artist T.Y. (Keen’a Dionte Ester)

When we think of a poet and philosopher, we may think of someone thoughtful, well-versed, and maybe even soft-spoken. We may also think of someone down to earth and observant. That would be how you’d describe recording artist T.Y. upon meeting him. Even the name T.Y. has a story – it’s short for Tyson Crookmind. As T.Y. puts it, “Tyson was a name given to me by older members of the neighborhood who recognized at a young age, my ability to defend myself. So they started to call me Tyson. And Crookmind came in later, for my in the closet insatiable appetite for books, for reading. Crookmind is linked to crook-minded Kronos from Greek mythology.”

T.Y. was born Keen’a Dionte Ester, on May 11, 1980 in South Central Los Angeles to Brenda Penny and Alonzo Dickie Ester. His father, better known as Dickie, was a night club owner of many, including the Dynasty Night Club in Inglewood and several speakeasy after hour clubs. “My relationship with my parents was attached, tumultuous, and adoring,” says T.Y. “I was fortunate enough to have both my mother and my father. I was very much attached to them as a child. I was always with my father. I was my mother’s first son. She was sixteen when she had me so I was her everything… Tumultuous in the sense that my father did end up going to prison when I was three [until eight years old]… Adoring, because I adored them. As I grew older, I really understood and appreciated everything they did for me.”

Primarily, T.Y.’s childhood was spent in South Central Los Angeles in the street areas of Central, McKinley and Wadsworth (The Fremont District). Growing up in South Central had its positives and negatives for T.Y. Some of the positives, he says, were learning to deal with practical matters and engaging with diverse people. “That’s why I’m a social person,” says T.Y. “I’m a quiet person, but I’m a social person. I like being around other people. I learn by being around other people. I’m a visual learner.” However, South Central did have its negatives, such as putting up with harassment from police, dealing with callous people, and being exposed to ruthlessness and horrific experiences. T.Y. explains, “Every decision made is based on survival. Even as a youth when you’re out there, every decision that you make is about survival.”


When it came to school, it was never consistent for T.Y. – he spent kindergarten at Miracle Baptist Elementary School, first and second grade at Crenshaw Christian Center, third and fourth grade at La Tijera Elementary School, fifth grade at Inglewood Christian School. Part of sixth grade he spent at Chapel Of Peace Elementary,  and the other at Highland Elementary in Inglewood when he moved in with his father. Seventh grade was started at Audubon Middle School in Los Angeles, but after being suspended for fighting, he went on to Bethune Middle School. For the rest of middle school, he attended, and graduated from Orville Wright Middle School. Freshman year of high school he started at Westchester High School in Westchester, California, but was suspended several times and eventually expelled. He finished freshman year at Fremont High School. While a freshman at Fremont High School, T.Y. was arrested and charged on suspicion of attempted murder. The case was investigated and dismissed thirty days after T.Y.’s arrest. However, he was expelled from Fremont High School. He moved on to John Hope Continuation School for two years, but was expelled for disciplinary reasons.

“I was very bold as a kid, but I was also a loner, shy in a sense,” relays T.Y.  “I had a couple people that I could say were my friends. I wasn’t in a lot of groups. I was by myself. I think that’s why I got into a lot of fights.” Not that his family wasn’t disciplining T.Y. His father required him to do homework and household chores. But T.Y. did occasionally run away to his grandmother, Cleaster Penny’s, house. His father always found him and brought him home. When T.Y. would get suspended, his father punished him by spanking him with a wooden paddle. Once he even cut off T.Y.’s treasured curly hair. T.Y.’s parents worked, yet still made sure he had something to do, including buying him video games. Still, curiosity beckoned T.Y. “I’m seeing all this other stuff going on around me, and I was more interested in that, so that caused me to be a little rambunctious and out there, gave me fits of wildness. It was a lack of attention,” he admits. At school, T.Y. says he actually had fun, especially when it came to sports – a great outlet for an energetic kid like T.Y. “As far as academically, I wasn’t really interested in books [at that time]. I knew how to read, I knew how to do mathematics and all. I just felt like that was secondary when it came to learning and dealing in practical matters.”

As early as his middle school years, T.Y. had already been involved with street gangs and drug dealing. His freshman year at Westchester High School, he started selling drugs. He was 15 years old. After a couple years at John Hope Continuation School, he dropped out of school and became fully engaged in the street life – gang banging and selling drugs. T.Y. is a documented member of the East Side Family Swan gang. “Formally, to me, being in a gang meant a sense of belonging, a sense of camaraderie, and a sense of trust. Presently, however, to me, being in a gang… is a false sense of everything that I just mentioned. Don’t get me wrong. There are still people that I do trust, to a certain extent… that I do feel a sense of camaraderie with and towards. And even the belonging to a certain degree. However, that is not everything. I thought it was everything. I thought that everybody was a comrade, I thought everybody I could trust, only to find out that that’s not true. As long as you’re there and you’re doing the things that people think you ought to be doing, whatever that is, whatever led you into this gang life, selling drugs, shooting… But as soon as you take a fall, that’s over with.”

From a young age, T.Y. showed a proficiency in creating raps. During his teen years, T.Y. also actively engaged in writing lyrics and rapping on the streets of Watts and South Central Los Angeles. “Guys in the community and gals knew me as someone who was really lyrical and poetic. Even then, at a young age, rapping about what’s going on around me but actually making it make sense. My friends would be saying random thoughts.”


At the age of 19, T.Y. was arrested and convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to seven years in state prison. While serving his seven year prison term for armed robbery, new charges were filed against him for an unsolved homicide. If convicted, T.Y.  would be sentenced to life in prison. Then, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged him with another crime – a state prisoner in possession of a dangerous weapon or dagger. T.Y. now faced charges in two separate cases on top of the one that sent him to prison, making it three strikes, and a conviction in either case would result in a life sentence in prison. The dangerous weapon matter was critical because it was T.Y.’s word versus a state prison guard’s – there were no other witnesses. Jerome Bradford, T.Y.’s private criminal defense attorney, quickly negotiated a plea agreement resolving both the homicide and dangerous weapon cases. Over the next sixteen years, T.Y. spent time in California state prisons, including, Delano, Salinas Valley, Kern Valley, New Folsom, Corcoran and Lancaster.

During his time in prison, T.Y. matured as a person. After the initial shock of being ripped away from his family and the loss of any control over his own life, T.Y. expresses, he began to, “Pay more attention to the choices that I made, whether it was the words that are coming out of my mouth or my actions.” While T.Y. does describe the experience of being in prison as horrific, he relates that his time was not as grim as others’. He did get into fights a lot and had to be on his guard, carrying knives with him. A lot of the violence directed at him was because of where he was from. Many people in jail came from rival neighborhoods and gangs. “Those experiences are hard lessons because it was primitive, it was almost savage-like,” says T.Y. “But through it all it helped me to exercise more self-control and to be more conscious. It didn’t harden my heart because I still like to laugh, I still like to get out and do things and see places. I don’t think people are out to get me, people are racist, none of that. Actually, I’m better off now because of that experience. I developed a sense of self while in prison. Being able to be still and take the time out to explore me.”

While in prison, T.Y. obtained his GED and earned a certification as a welder. He also developed a love for books, particularly those that spoke to his situation and taught him compassion and, “not to prejudge but also to understand and be empathetic toward another’s plight.” Among those books, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher & The Rye, John Griffin’s Black Like Me, and Viktor E. Frankl A Man’s Search For Meaning. Not to mention a love for Ancient and Black History, Greek Mythology, and Shakespeare.


For T.Y., prison provided time for self-reflection, especially on the occasions that he had to do time in “the hole,” when he had no privileges, no television, radio, or communication with other inmates or any other human beings. “Prior to going to prison I was always on the move. In order to understand who you are and what your purpose is… You have to ponder on that and be still and really go in and dig deep… It’s almost like a river running or filling up the bathtub with water. While the river is running or the bathtub is filling up with water you can’t see your reflection. But once it stops, once the river is still, and you cut the bath water off and peer down in it, then you can see your reflection.”

One thing T.Y. did while in prison was he became very productive in writing rap songs and performing them in prison talent shows and on prison tiers. Of those songs, 26 were copyrighted before he was released from prison. The songs were based on his experiences on the street and being incarcerated. For T.Y. this was a major feat. He was so prolific that many of the songs he wrote in the beginning, only those around him at the time have ever heard. As he wrote more, he began spending more time on them, giving more care and crafting them.

On May 13, 2011, news reached T.Y. that his father was shot and killed in his Rolls Royce while pulling into the driveway of his home in Baldwin Hills, California. His father’s death was all over the L.A. media and there was a $30,000 reward for anyone who gave information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible.  Because of being in prison, T.Y. was unable to attend his father’s funeral. T.Y. was devastated. Depression set in and to dull the pain he got high on weed and drank pruno – a prison-made wine. To T.Y., his father was his motivation. Like many a son, T.Y. wanted to show his father he could make it in the world, he could find his purpose. His father had always been there to support him in any way he could. “To be able to discover [my purpose] and my talent and to not have him around to see me go out and achieve that and accomplish that, that was my motivation. To show him I got it. All the whoopings, the punishments, I got it. I see why you were doing it now. Because you already knew that I was capable of putting these talents on display in a positive way. And he got snatched. He passed on to the next life cycle. It had me to the point I was like, what the fuck am I going for?” From 2011 to 2014, T.Y. did not write any raps. But during that time, T.Y. turned his focus inward and self-reflected.

“[My father’s death] helped me to develop a more profound respect and appreciation for time and memories.” One memory of his father was that he kept doing what he loved in life no matter what, and that inspired T.Y. to pick himself back up and want to live life again.


A year from his scheduled release from prison, T.Y. was involved in a fight on the yard of Lancaster State Prison. Charges were filed against him for possession of a deadly weapon and assault upon another inmate causing serious injury – both strike offenses. Conviction under either offense would result in him spending the rest of his natural life in prison. An offer was made by the Prosecutor for six more years in state prison, as opposed to life sentence. After consulting with his attorney, Jerome Bradford, T.Y. rejected the offer, saying, “Absolutely not.” The case proceeded to trail where a jury acquitted him of both felony charges.

On November 23, 2015 T.Y. was released from prison, and recorded his first song entitled “Trapped In” a week after being released from prison. For him, it was a surreal experience. He’d been practicing his songs for years, but suddenly, he’s free and recording songs in a studio in Torrance, California – the same studio where NWA, one of T.Y.’s inspirations, recorded their first album.

Rap music sparked T.Y.’s life as early as age seven or eight. One influence was his older brother on his father’s side, who would leave raps for people on their answering machines. T.Y.’s mother and father would not allow him to listen to explicit music. But his uncle listened to rap and when he wasn’t around, T.Y. would listen to his uncle’s rap albums. Artists who T.Y. was drawn to included NWA, DJ Quik, Mac Dre, E-40, Ice Cube, and Tupac. What impacted T.Y. was how unapologetically expressive the rap artists were about what they going through. He wanted to be able to do that himself.

Music, T.Y. has found to be a release. “A lot of things that I take in around me, visually, phonically, I probably wouldn’t just express it having a regular conversation, you and I. But when I have a pad and pencil, and not a lot of people are around and I have some music, I can release, I can let those thoughts out.” It also provides introspection for T.Y. “We move around so much daily as people. We rarely take the time to sit still and really pay attention to the things that are running through our minds. For me that’s what writing music is. It’s a form of therapy and self-reflection.”

And through the music T.Y. writes, he wants people to hear a message of hope and inspiration. He wants us to seek out knowledge of ourselves, to educate ourselves, and to believe in ourselves and believe that we have a purpose. “You’re going to see a lot of negative things, hear a lot of negative things, but that’s life. You take those things and you learn from them. There’s no such thing as a mistake. There are only experiences. Some of those experiences are good and some of them are bad, but it’s an experience nonetheless. And from that experience is something to be gained and learned.”

T.Y. wants people to hear his story because he knows that there are those who have gone through horrendous situations like his, probably even worse, and he wants you to know you are not alone. Just because you experience bad things, T.Y. says, “It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure or you’re less than or subhuman, it just means that you have a bigger testimony than the next person who hasn’t been through it. You have more to offer and share.” And know, “Before you actually go through whatever situation you’re in, you’ve got be able to see yourself through it, you’ve got to be able to see yourself making it.”

His advice to those who want to be a rap artist is this: “You have to start, to continue, and refuel. To stop thinking and write about what you’re seeing, what you’re feeling, and what you’re experiencing. And as long as you do that, you’ll get better, because practice makes perfect. So if this is something you really want to do, just like anything in life – consistency, persistence.”

To T.Y., sharing your story is crucial because words actually have a huge impact on us. “Words are everything to me. Words and expressing them. The power in them. The ability to make people cry, make people laugh, evoke thought. Words are life. You speak things into existence… There’s power in it. If I didn’t have words, I wouldn’t be anything, I don’t think. Because nobody would know how I felt, what it was I was going through.”

Posted by: quoththesparrow | May 19, 2016

The Real-Life Dementor’s Kiss

Depression is like dementors. People often confuse circumstantial depression with clinical depression. If someone says to you that they suffer from depression that is a huge clue that it’s clinical. Circumstantial depression changes with the circumstance and can be beaten by a change in attitude or action. Clinical depression is much, much more. Clinical depression can be triggered by circumstances, but can also come on without reason. Depression is more than just sadness – it’s like having your soul sucked out. Imagine walking around feeling completely hollow inside and you have barely enough strength or energy to move. All hope seems gone and you feel like you’ll never be happy again. Your only chance for survival is to hold on to the truth.

Even before I’d heard J.K. Rowling’s life story I knew she suffered from depression just by reading The Prisoner of Azkaban. You cannot describe the experience of depression that accurately without having gone through it yourself. And those of us who suffer from depression are not weak. Rather, we’ve had true horror in our life, horrors you can’t even imagine. People who tell someone suffering from depression to simply cheer up, or get over it, or get over ourselves, show that they are ignorant. These are the same people who harshly judge those who commit suicide.

In the US we have a complete lack when it comes to mental health. Instead of digging deeper into the issue to move forward, people are burying their heads in the sand like ostriches, as though they want to remain ignorant. There is such a stigma on mental health and it’s only harming us. Most health insurance plans don’t cover counseling. And just because someone has a mental illness does NOT mean they are insane. Clinical depression is actually considered a mental illness. Going to a counselor doesn’t mean there is something wrong with us. In fact, it’s healthy. It means that we want to get better. Like going to the gym.

So, if someone tells you they suffer from depression, or even if they’re going through circumstantial depression, be quick to listen and slow to speak. Give them lots of hugs, and walk beside them through it.

Posted by: quoththesparrow | May 18, 2016

What Nightmares May Come


It’s happening again. I wake in the desolate grey. Volcanic rock and remnants of scorched trees. Silence, except for the occasional whistle of a breeze. The sky is steel grey but there are no clouds. No one can be seen for miles, the loneliness crushing. But I know I’m not completely alone. It’s out there somewhere, ready to pounce as always. My pulse races and my body tenses from my nerves being on edge. All my senses are heightened.

As quietly as I can, I get up. Each pebble that moves causes me to jump and frantically search my surroundings.

I just walk. Anywhere but here.

Minutes pass and no sign of it. I start to relax. Maybe it’s gone, finally. Did I conquer it? But how? Do nightmares just go away?

Movement in front of me snaps me back, and my insides turn to ice. There before me is the creature. Several yards away, but I can smell its fetid breath on me. For a second I try not running. Maybe I can scare it away. A breeze whistles past us, rustling the rotten shreds of its clothing and the long wild wisps of hair. I try to look it in the eye, and my courage dissolves. It’s always the eyes. I turn and bolt.

I run as hard as I can, like always. But as always, the creature is not far behind me. Its growls are as close as though it were at my neck.

After a minute my chest burns and I know what’s coming. Everything goes into slow motion, except the creature. Within seconds it will be on me, and I will wake up screaming as always.

The creature’s icy, stinking breath is on my neck and I shut my eyes, preparing to wake. Except I don’t. Suddenly I feel its skeletal hands on my back and I am shoved to the ground. I open my eyes and turn to face the creature, my every fiber stinging with fright. The creature stares down at me, its skeletal face like the Cryptkeeper, smiling maniacally.

Somehow, looking it in the eye this time, I find courage. “Who are you? What are you? What do you want?”

A rumble comes from the creature’s throat and I realize it’s chuckling. “You don’t recognize me? You murdered me.”

“Me?! What? No!” But as I continue looking into its eyes, I do in fact find them familiar. Whose eyes they are exactly, I can’t quite figure out just yet. “How did I kill you?”

“You left me to die. One day you just didn’t want anything more to do with me. You gave up. I kept trying to get back to you. But without you, I withered into nothing…Murder by neglect.”

Carefully, I stood up, keeping my eye on the creature. It just watched me. The odd part was it didn’t look angry. It was…what?

At last I said, “I’m sorry. I still don’t know who you are.”

“I’m your dreams, hopes, aspirations.”

The shock froze me. Then a sick feeling welled up inside me.

I realized the look it had was hunger.

The creature spoke again. “You killed me, but nothing stays dead forever. Now I’m your nightmares. I will get energy from you again, but instead of giving you life, I will consume you until you die, too.”

And it lunged. I snapped back in time to dart out of its way. Then I did the only thing I knew how to do – run.

Before I had made it even a few feet, the creature grabbed me by the wrist and spun me around.

“No more running,” it snarled.

With its other hand the creature clutched my neck and pulled me close. Face to face, its breath was so putrid I wanted to pass out. I tried to wiggle free but the creature wrapped me into a tight embrace, but not a loving one. Its lower jaw dropped and it began inhaling.

I had to do something. My mind raced while my life flashed before me, all in a split second. Then it hit me.


The creature stopped.

I took the opportunity. “What if I resurrect you?”

The creature cocked its head.

I continued. “You said nothing stays dead forever. You came back as this. I killed you by neglect. What if I resurrect you by giving you back the care you deserve?”

The creature made the rumbling chuckle sound again. “You can’t bring back what’s dead. It has to become -”

“-Another form. I know. I resurrect you as new dreams.”

The creature took that idea in. I held my breath, hoping, praying. After several moments, the creature returned its gaze to me. “That could work…Yes. It would…Actually, I think I’d like that.”

I laughed nervously. “Yeah, I’d like that, too. Being consumed until I die doesn’t sound too fun.”

A chuckle came from the creature. This time it was clear and out of amusement.

“I’m sorry I abandoned you,” I said.

Looking at me with pity, the creature sighed. I coughed, trying not to gag.

“It’s not me you need forgiveness from. It’s yourself,” said the creature.

The creature released me. It put its hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eye. “The first step to bringing your dreams to life must be that you wake up.”

And the creature passed its hand over my face as though casting a spell. Everything went black.

For the first time, I woke with a sense of peace.


Posted by: quoththesparrow | April 21, 2016

Oddball Bob and the Very Starey Staircase

Oddball Bob

Oddball Bob hobbled up to the decrepit parking structure. He found the stairs and, grabbing his right leg with his left hand, slung it to the first step. Twisting carefully, he hopped a couple of times, then heaved his other leg up. Bob repeated this process all the way up the stairs.

At the top he scanned the expanse of cars of various sizes and colors of the rainbow. It took Bob a while to do this because of his stiff neck. His head only turned in jerky motions. Finally, there it was, the cobalt Chevy coupe. Bob tilted his head slightly so his lazy eye turned to meet the other and he could see it fully and be absolutely sure.

A rapid grunting emitted from Bob’s lips and he hobbled over to the car. There, he waited stealthily. If you call standing directly in front of the car with the streetlamp boldly shining on him stealthy.

People started coming to their cars and driving away. Soon, there were only three cars left, including the one Bob was standing in front of.

Sometime later a young man came walking toward the car Bob was standing in front of. When the young man was a foot away, Bob yelled, “Ha!”

The young man stopped, and sighed. “Hi, Bob.”

“I didn’t scare you?”

“Dude, I saw you all the way from the stairs.”


“What do you want?”

Bob started grunting again.

The young man groaned. “Ugh, I hate it when you laugh.”

“I’m gonna get you!” Bob exclaimed, then shuffled forward, jerking his arms until they were out straight.

“Really. Okay, I’m gonna get in my car. I’ll probably be gone by the time you get to the driver’s side.”

Bob growled. Well, it was more like, “Yaaaaarrr!”

The young man sighed again, this time frustrated. “Bob, what do you want?”

“Youuu, youuu toook my pen!”

The young man laughed loudly.

Bob yaaaaarrred again. “That’s not funny!”

“Yes it is! You came all the way here, stood waiting for me for however many hours, all for a pen.”

Reaching into his pocket, the young man pulled out a chewed up Bic pen. Casually, he walked over to Bob and placed the pen in Bob’s shirt pocket, then patted him.

“There ya go, buddy. Hey, have a good night and don’t get yourself in too much trouble.” The young man winked while simultaneously snapping his fingers, then pointing at Bob. Then quickly he was in his car and drove away.

Bob stood there for another five or ten minutes.

“Oh, well, I guess I’ll go back now.”

And with that, Bob hobbled back toward the stairs.

Posted by: quoththesparrow | April 17, 2016



The desert continued to stretch beyond the horizon. Sun-bleached sandstone crumbling under the oppressive heat. But that didn’t affect the young man. With each step his confidence grew. From time to time he’d spot a unique rock formation and excitedly pull his book out of the backpack, flip a few pages and exclaim with joy when he found the image he was looking for. Then he’d bring out his map and mark his find. And then on he’d forge.

A little while later he found another formation. Again he brought out his book and map.

He punched the air excitedly. “Made it farther than any of them! I’ll find the Lost City…and its gold. I’ll be rich and famous and then everyone back home will see.”

Off he took at full speed. After a few minutes he’d winded himself and stopped, catching his breath. He took a water bottle from his backpack and drank heartily. When he had his fill he returned the bottle to his backpack and went on.

“What shall I do with all the money?”

A smile creeped across his face. “I’ll hire my family as servants in my mansion. They can sleep in the moldy, dark basement. Ha! And I’ll grind them down with the worst tasks ever and not listen to a word they say. Not one complaint or plea. See how they like it.” At that he laughed, not humorously, but spitefully.

The sun had made its trek across the sky more than halfway toward the western horizon. Shadows began leaking from the rocks. Then, in the distance the young man heard a sound that turned him whiter than the bleached wood he’d occasionally seen in the desert.

“No. It can’t be. There are none here.”

He stood frozen for a second, then shook it off. “Man, I really do have an overactive imagination.”

On he journeyed. A few minutes later, his eyes grew wide with epiphany and he laughed harshly. “The conference! The guys at work let me speak at the conference because they wanted me to get mocked off stage!”

He stewed for a little while. Then something else began brewing in his thoughts. “Let’s see how they like sabotage. I am their errand boy. I know all their secrets. How about I run up business charges in their name…I can change their proposals en route to the CEOs.”

Suddenly, he heard the sound again, this time close by. Instead of freezing, he bolted. Only, not a hundred yards away in front of him appeared the very source of the sound.

“Lions?! Here?! Really?!”

The lion roared and charged toward the young man. With all that he could muster, the young man scaled the nearest hill of craggy outcroppings. At the top he looked back and saw the lion almost to the hill. He turned away and ran.

Into the night he ran, stopping only to catch his breath. Time would go by without him seeing or hearing the lion. Just when he had hop it was gone, the lion would make its presence known and on the young man ran.

The sun rose over the horizon, breaking across the desert hills. Light began chasing shadows from the desolate world. Still the young man ran. He hadn’t heard or seen the lion for a while again, and he dared to hope again. Slowing to a jog, he passed between two hills. The sun was already warm and the shadows up ahead would be invitingly cool. Just as he jogged to the darkened patch of ground, too late he realized it was not shadow, and he tumbled head-first into the hole. He bounced and somersaulted until he hit bottom, some 20 feet below.

The hole was steep, like a well but with no water. His chest heaved as he laid on his back, his legs crumpled against the walls. As he stared up at the sky, the world spinning, the lion’s face appeared over the top edge. The lion grunted and the young man laughed.

“At least down here you can’t get me!”

With another grunt, the lion left. First, the young man checked himself for broken bones. Finding none, he slowly stood up, leaning against the wall as his head spun. Once he stabilized, the young man reached up, dug his fingers into the dirt, and tried to pull himself up. But the dirt crumbled and he slid back down. Again he tried, and again, and again. He tried putting each foot against a wall and hoisting himself up. But the dirt crumbled. So many ways he tried to get out of the hole, but no matter what, they always failed. The dirt crumbled and he fell. Finally, he collapsed and wailed.

“I’ve come this far only to die in a hole. This is so unfair!”

Hours went by and the young man continued to lament. The sun shone directly overhead and the hole was completely illuminated. And it heated quickly. Within minutes the young man had sweat through his clothes.

Above, the lion appeared again at the edge. The young man picked up a pebble and chucked it at the lion. He missed. The lion didn’t even flinch. In fact, it seemed to be smiling.

“Oh, come on!” the young man hollered. “Now you’re laughing at me, too?”

The lion continued staring at the young man. Its expression changed slightly. More serious now.

Incredulously, the young man demanded, “Are you judging me?”

A rumbling came from the lion’s throat.

“I take that as a ‘yes.'” And the young man thumped his fist against the wall in exasperation.

Minutes went by, the heat becoming deadly. The young man struggled to breathe. He looked up at the lion.

“Seriously? I have a couple selfish thoughts and I end up roasting to death. After everything everyone else has done to me? Where’s the justice in that?”

The lion flopped itself onto the ground and rested its head on its paws. Its eyes gleamed with interest.

“Okay, maybe I was a little more selfish than just those couple of thoughts.”

The lion cocked its head.

“You don’t believe me? Of course you don’t. No one does. No one listens to me. I wanted to show them up. I wanted to be better than everyone. Larger than life.They hurt me. I wanted them to feel the pain they made me feel.”

He kicked the wall, then howled in pain, clutching his foot. He glared up at the lion. It shook its head slowly. The young man threw up his hands. “What?”

He locked eyes with the lion for a few moments, than dropped his arms, resigned.

“I just wanted to feel like I mattered, that I was special.”

The young man banged his head against the dirt wall. “This is my punishment, I gather. I tried to repay evil with evil…I brought this on myself…But if I did, I should be able to get myself out. Only, I can’t. I can’t save myself.”

As the young man slumped against the dirt wall again, he noticed grooves and dents in the dirt that looked like claw marks and paw prints. Slowly, he turned toward the lion in bewilderment.

“You made this hole?”

The lion smirked and nodded.

“Then you’ve got me no matter what,” said the young man, resigned.

With that, the lion jumped up and disappeared.

The young man sighed, “Now even you’ve deserted me.” And he closed his eyes.

Minutes later he heard a noise within the earth, coming closer.It stopped just before the wall. Then he heard scratching noises, and the dirt began to crumble away.



Posted by: quoththesparrow | April 14, 2016

Meant To Be


There once was a beautiful rose

Magnificent in color

Its leaves shiny and petals full of life

A sweet, sweet fragrance so alluring

Many people stopped to admire it

And breathe in its beauty

Then continued on their way

Yet, in all the admiration

No one thought to stay

And nurture the rose

After a while people stopped paying it visits

The weather turned

Rain fell

At first it quenched the rose’s thirst

But the more the rain fell, the harder it came

Soon it turned to hail

And stripped leaves and petals from the rose

On it bore down

Then suddenly, it stopped

A spot of sun broke through the clouds

A breeze trickled in, kissing the rose gently

Then the breeze blew harder

In a flash the breeze turned into a mighty gale

The rose was whipped to and fro

Only its roots held it down

The wind hurled on, unrelenting

The rose’s leaves and petals,

If not blown away,

Were ripped to rags

On the wind howled

Until the rose was almost spent

Then suddenly, the wind stopped

And the sun came out

The rays caressed what was left of the rose

The sun stayed and beamed on

Yet, the longer the sun stayed, the hotter it grew

Under the heat, the rose wilted

Until it was but a shriveled remnant

At last the rose collapsed

Shortly, it would become one with the soil

No one to know that a beautiful rose

Once stood tall and proud in that place

Winter came

The ground covered in snow and ice,

Where our rose once was, now a frozen waste

Spring came, melting the ice and snow

Watering the ground

The sun returned and warmed the land

One day a tiny green shoot poked through the soil

A little boy playing the mighty hero

Slicing through the air with a stick for a sword

Stopped at the sight of the little green shoot

He knelt and peered at it in wonder

Then he turned back and called,

“Daddy, what’s this?”

His father came and knelt beside him

“It’s the beginning of a new life.

It could be anything.”

“Daddy, I’ll pull it up and give it to Mama!”

“Oh, no, son. But wait.

I’ll show you what to do with it.”

His father left, then returned shortly

With a spade and pot

First he scooped in dirt, then gently dug up

The little green shoot with his spade

And placed it carefully in the pot

“We’ll take it home and plant it in the garden.

Care for it, son. Nurture it.

In time, we’ll see what it’s meant to be.”

Posted by: quoththesparrow | April 14, 2016

Leader of the Coat


Two men stood at the precipice

The valley spread out before them

Behind them the rest of their group

“What do we do?” they shouted in unison

The men looked at each other

“Do you know?”

“I don’t know. You?”

“Not a clue.”

The one man look at the other

“Why, your coat is much more fanciful than mine.

You have good taste. You must be smarter. You be leader.”

The other man agreed

He took the path nearest them down to the valley

The others followed

Three days, then three weeks went by

Everything went fine

Or so they thought

One day they called a town meeting

When the man with the coat stood in front of them

He opened his mouth to speak

But before their very eyes

A child of eight years or so

Snuck up and snatched his coat

Right off his back

“Whose child is so unruly?”

“None of ours!”

The child taunted the man and waved his coat

The man chased the child but could not catch it

Suddenly the town was surrounded

By an army of strange children

At first the town laughed

“Let’s show these youngsters who’s boss!”

But the children rounded up the town

Faster than they could reach the children or run from them

No matter what, the town could not outsmart the children

Four days, then four weeks later

The adults work the land

While the children run the town

It is a prosperous place these days

Posted by: quoththesparrow | May 12, 2012

Can you guess what these are?

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