Poetry of Innocent Inmates™

Ryan Madden, 1986–2019

Ryan “little king”
Patrick “nobility”
Raphael “God heals”

Ryan Madden’s life with us came to an end on March 30th of 2019, alone in a prison cell in Lancaster, California, at 32 1/2 years of age. It was Ryan’s 13th year of a 15-year sentence that he was serving for two robberies that occurred in Oak Park, California, in early 2005. Even though he was not the person who committed these crimes and the evidence to exonerate him was available, a combination of our inexperience with these matters coupled with a lazy, inept attorney gave the authorities the unjust prize they were looking for—a conviction. Seven years later Ryan’s appellate attorney tragically missed a filing deadline that time-barred his case and as a consequence Ryan’s appeal was stopped dead in its tracks.

Ryan was a huge presence in our lives—even from behind bars. He was a loving big brother who cherished his four younger sisters deeply. His talents and abilities were numerous: he was a great athlete who could hit the crossbar on a soccer goal from 50 yards away; he could draw beautifully and with pen or pencil would render an uncanny copy of any subject; he could write so well you actually thought he was there talking directly to you; he naturally understood mathematics, especially geometry; and he had an insatiable appetite for astronomy and all things cosmic. He stood out in everything he tried and was a strong personality among five strong personalities.

His wrongful conviction at age 20 was an injustice Ryan could never accept. It dragged him away from his innate gregarious spirit into a deep painful place. Every hour of every day for 12 1/2 years, his absence loomed over our heads. Visits with him were always highly emotional as our deepest hopes and fears rose to the surface. We would share our dreams for the future while holding a dreaded anxiety in the present: the joy of hugging him, combined with the sorrow each time of leaving him behind… bars.

When we were exhausted by it all, fearful, eager for it to end and for joy to finally come again, Ryan became the caller who just needed us. We now know how we needed him. He led us to discover how much we could love.

The steady flow of letters was often provocative because he was always struggling with loneliness, fear and depression: he loved life, yet his was so difficult for him to accept.

In the end, it was his love of life, family and his cosmological study of the origins of life and our universe that were sustaining forces within. They kept him dreaming and hoping through the difficult and sometimes dark daily chaos and hostility he endured behind bars. In recent years, Ryan had discovered another refuge in the art of word crafting also, through his poetry. He loved to wrap life with all its pain and beauty in rhythm and rhyme.

The darkness of life in prison and ensuing depression took him from us, but his memory and the light of his poetry shine still. He put together his book of poems in the last six months of his life, leaving words for me to type into my laptop, but also many unanswered questions. Still, we are pushing on to realize the fulfillment of his life in that work. We appreciate that a few of Ryan’s poems are appearing in the 2019 Red Wheelbarrow. We only wish Ryan Patrick Raphael Madden were here to celebrate with us.

Kathy Madden, October, 2019

Outside True Self | Ryan Madden

Trapped outside true self,
Caught occasionally looking in,
On the BRIGHT orb of my spirit,
And its glowing truth within.

Suspended squarely in my center,
Opposite of the unknown,
Above the battlefield of life,
To make shaded courage shown.

From my cup, flow the DELUSIONS,
And wine of forbidden fruit,
Found—Drunk on sweet ILLUSIONS,
still ravaging my youth.

’Cause the nearest path I’ve seen
Leads to something like addiction,
I’m lost out here,
somewhere between
confusion and conviction.

When trapped outside True Self
The journey back begins
2 steps behind our Destiny
Just 1 in front of sin

A mostly harrowing journey
But a most noble pursuit
To untangle the theories
And find the measure of proof

That’s uniquely reflected
In the depth of our roots,—
The distance between
Our SELF and our TRUTH.

House of Mirrors | Ryan Madden

A maze of reflective regret leaves me lost,
Within a house of mirrors—
And all of my signals crossed.
A dizzy sort of image blurs together as it melts,
Into the ignorance of fear,
Because I’m staring at myself.
Confusion comes into play,
Don’t know the move to make,
’Cause every step I took before,
Left 10 more steps to take.
Lost within the House of Mirrors,
Trapped until I see,
That because I cannot see through the glass
The glass can see through me.

String Theory | Ryan Madden

I want to witness the Power,
Which ignited the spark
At the flame of my soul.
I want to remember
The world that was before this world,
And swim in its oceans,
However cosmic and deep.
I want to realize the thoughts,
Which inspired this creation,
And experience the peace
Of their simplicity.
I want to embrace every instant,
And learn the immortality
Of time.
I want to dream with my eyes,
And conquer with my fears,
I want to set the Earth on fire.

The Journey | Ryan Madden

While walking through the quiet forest one morning,
I suddenly came across an Indian,
asleep under a redwood.
Startled by the crackling leaves,
he awoke in a swirl of movement
to bind me with a purposeful gaze.
When he had studied me long enough, he firmly declared,
“Only a man of good intention can find me still sleeping.
Otherwise, the mountain would have whispered a warning.”
Without an ally of my own, and having never known intention,
I turned to run, and never look back.
Yet, try as I must,
his lion-tooth necklace kept me planted and firm.
With this decision
he motioned for me to follow him through the unknown
and the forest out beyond it.
We journeyed for what seemed like years,
fighting through brambles and briars,
slugging through muck and its mire,
until we discovered the beaten path
cutting sharply through the forest.
There, he asked me, “Have you been here before?”
I replied, “Only in my heart.”
“And so you see,” he gently offered,
“The here and now makes all the difference.”
With a sudden sense of direction
I began to lead the way—without even a legend.
It was I who pierced the treeline
at the navel of the lake,
where I fully inhaled the reflection,
hoping to be baptized by its pristine serenity—

It was then I knew what I was searching for.
The mountain and its majestic girth,
lay cradling the shore—
breathing in the purity of the air,
way up there.

It reminded me that Giza’s complex was only just a copy,
the best that man could produce.
Here, the real thing, alive in its glory,
dared me to be so great.
In the power of the moment, I saw this warrior was here
to color its fulfillment—
as only wisdom can.
“Here,” he told me, “the mountains prefer to live by lakes,
so they can see themselves each mornin’
in the figure of God’s grandeur
and regain their confidence,
lest they crumble and fall away.
Remember to look inside yourself, as the mountains do,
even the great ones such as this,
which compel all Goliaths to bow in awe and make way.
They come from deep within the Earth
and manifest themselves in their climb.
It is the mountain that teaches:
there is no such thing as weakness,
only strength we haven’t found.”

Ryan’s Artwork