The Street

The Street

Bad Girl

These girls in juvie say they know how to fight
That they can do everything
That they have tricks you don’t have
That the street is just messing around

-They don’t know what the street is-

Living in the street is risking you will get beat up
It’s not having a roof over your head
It’s enduring big storms and cold
It’s going hungry
It’s finding friends who only introduce you to bad things
It’s ending up in prison or the hospital –with luck-
It’s having to obey your click’s leader
Instead of your mom and dad
It’s exposing your self to murder and rape
It’s not having comfort from anyone

These girls are proud to say they are from the streets
Because they don’t know what it is like to grow up there.
The streets are nothing great,
It’s the worst thing that can happen to you.
If I would have known what the street was about
I wouldn’t have chosen it.
But this is my path…


I Didn’t Know He Was a Palabrero*

Published by: Olivia

I Didn’t Know He Was a Palabrero*

I didn’t know he was a palabrero
but I love him very much.
I thought he was an average guy
but even so he was everything.

He told me he loved me
I believed him
although now he is going to be a dad
I want to forget him
and I can’t

All of a sudden
he has another women
it hurts me a lot
but that’s how we women are
we believe men
without thinking about what they do

*palabrero: a well-respected person within the gang who gives orders

How Do I Call Them “Homeboy”?

Published by: Olivia

How Do I Call Them “Homeboy”?


Homeboy was
a word
that I really liked
because of how it sounded.

A homeboy was
Someone strong
With authority and character
Sure of what they did.

A homeboy was
someone who would be there
from the very beginning
who would never fail me
who would support and correct me.

The homeboys were
my family
that didn’t let me down
who protected and took care of me,
and who gave me love.

A homeboy gave me security
that if something happened,
we would figure it out together
because we were happy
to share the same problem

A homeboy would stand up for me
if things didn’t go as we planned.

A homeboy would never
wish me harm.

But the day came
when I saw
the other side
of the coin.
Nighttime.  A house.  Alcohol. Drugs. Money.
5 homeboys. Really drunk. High. Music. Drugs.
Persistence. Resistance. Anger. Deception. Screams.
Begging. My cries. Their laughter.
I was nothing to them.


I couldn’t do anything.
My mind went blank
to not feel anything else.
In the midst of so many people
they didn’t see me.
Regret for having left my house.
Fear to continue walking in the street.

How many more people were there like this within my gang?
How do I call them homeboy
after what they have done to me
knowing that I was part of the same family?
How do I call them homeboy knowing
what they did to me hurt me
and damaged me as a woman?

How do I call them homeboy with respect
if in the end it is just a front, a bunch of crap…
the strong ones, the respected ones…

How do I call them homeboy
with the care and affection they ask for
if in reality they disgust and deceive me?
Very few
have earned
the name homeboy.

But for me
the word lost its meaning
the night they showed me
what they were capable of doing.

Why do we do them favors?

Published by: Olivia

Many incarcerated women and girls are behind bars for doing favors for gang members (pick up extortion Money, move weapons, sell drugs, assist in kidnappings, etc.).  These women put themselves at serious risk for their partners and the guys from their barrio, and afterwards many feel disillusioned and abandoned as they pay time for these crimes (alone).  Many times, when a woman goes to jail, her boyfriend leaves her for another.  Nevertheless, women seldom question their reason for doing favors for the homeboys.  Yesterday, I asked a girl why she did, and the following poem is a result of that conversation.

Why do we do them favors?

Youth, 18-years-old

I did it
I have thought and thought
And never come to a conclusion
Most people do it for money
Some do it because they are afraid
Maybe I did it to be liked
To take care of them
I came to care about these dummies
But I never thought I would pay
These guys can’t do what a civilian can
There’s no way a homeboy is going to move a missile
He looks too “bad”
But a woman can put on her skirt, her heels
In her purse she can carry weed or guns
And a male cop cannot pat her down
They use women
In that sense, women are dumb
A woman says “yes” to everything
I still don’t understand why
But here I am, thinking

To Be a Woman

Published by: Olivia

In honor of International Women’s Day, we share this poem written by a young incarcerated girl about what it means for her to be a woman.  Today, we wish to remember in a special way all the strong women and young women behind bars who struggle to find peace and forgiveness.

To Be a Woman

“The Lazy One”

Being a woman doesn’t mean you can mistreat us

Being a woman doesn’t mean you can treat us as choleras*

Being a owman doesn’t mean that we are only worth anything in bed

Being a woman does not require beauty products

Because inside each one of us exists a woman who is worth something.

We don’t stop being women just because we prostitute ourselves

We don’t stop being women just because we sleep with a person of the same sex

We as women need love, affection, understanding

Someone who loves us and who shows it with deeds, not words.

No man would exist

If it weren’t for a woman

We only have one mother

Any dog could be a dad

I am proud to be a woman.

*cholera: Salvadoran slang, in this case referring to a woman used to do “dirty work” at another person’s beckoning


Published by: Olivia

Many young girls whose boyfriends are gang members live with the constant worry that they will be killed.  Young people tattoo themselves in juvenile detention centers—because they are bored, to identify themselves with the gang, as a way of self-destructing.  The fact is that tattooing yourself with the letters or numbers of a gang is like condemning yourself to death, since you become more visible to enimies and it becomes more difficult to get out of the gang.  In the following poem, a girl tells about her reaction to the news that her boyfriend of 7 years (with whom she hopes to have children some day) tattood his face.


Joven, 17 años

Yesterday he told me he tattood his face
I just stayed quiet
“It’s not going to be the same now,” I told him
We aren’t going to be able to go where we want

That night, I cried and cried
When my mom sees him she isn’t going to like him anymore
Because she is afraid we Could both be killed

If I get pregnant
And they kill him
I’ll be alone
And I don’t want that

It’s hard to be a homeboy’s girl
Whatever happens I’ll always be with him
I love him so much I’d give my ife for him
Who knows what will become of us

A While Ago

Published by: Olivia

This poem was written by a young woman who was released 10 months ago.  Last year, she published various poems in Hard Lessons, (“Your Terrible Daughter,” “The Only Lost Battle,” “So That You Don’t Know,” and “I Belong to a World of Solitude”) and now she lives with her dad and aunt and studying.  She keeps in touch, she keeps writing, and she keeps impressing me with her simple and wise verses.

A While Ago
Camerón, 16 years old

A while ago now the sun hid itself
A while ago I stopped loving
A while ago I stopped crying
A while ago I stopped feeling
A while ago I stopped believing that love exists.

A while ago I stopped having a mother
A while ago I stopped having a father
A while ago I stopped having a sister
A while ago I exchanged my heart for a stone
A while ago I left behind that stuipid girl

That’s why I am who I am.
I am the picture, the painting,
Of all those people who one day broke my soul and lied to me.
Cry, cry
It’s all I did.

But now I walk proudly,
Because everything in this life is trial and error.
Trial and error.
And I already made my mistakes.