Skip to main content

A Poem About Children and Nature vs. Nurture - Anatomy of a Wasted Life

An innocent babe

Born into a brutal world

Carrying the weight of his father’s sin.

Only a baby, only a child,

Reaping the sorrows of alcohol and addiction.

He knows no other way,

He knows no other life,

He was born an innocent

Caught in the web of suffering and strife

Learning it early.

Learning it fast.

By the roll of the dice

His fate seems to be cast.

Potentially brilliant.

Potentially a thug.

What will become of this child,

Who doesn’t know a father’s love?

Going to school

In this alien world

Where all the other children dream.

Only a child, only a boy,

Bright new colors make life not as gray as it seems.

He sees a different way,

He sees a different life,

He is confused by the brightness

Caught between shadow and light.

Learning to see.

Learning to feel.

Trying to differentiate

Between what is and is not real

Potentially a saint.

Potentially a sinner.

In the battle of good versus evil

Who will be the winner?

A baby grows fast

From toddler to child

Home is defined by tension, anger, and violence.

Only a child, only a boy,

Mastering the art of being invisible and silent.

He hears only angry sounds,

He hears no promises of a better life.

He cowers in the darkness

From the sounds of a man beating on his wife

Learning how to listen

Learning how to hear

He hates the deafening noise of rage

Caught always in the web of anticipation and fear.

Potentially compassionate.

Potentially an abuser.

Is it nature or is it nurture

That turns a winner into a loser?

A child is growing

At the speed that all boys do

Colliding full force with the outside world.

Not a child, not a man,

With a swirling vortex of temptation, cars and girls.

Searching for an identity.

Searching for himself.

He stands undecided at the cross-road

Caught between what could be, and a childhood spent in Hell.

Potentially a scholar

Potentially a thief

Does a single moment decide for a lifetime

Between happiness and grief?

A teenage boy on his own

With no role model or guide

Can be so easily forever lost.

Not a child, not a man,

Everything he might have been the only collateral cost.

Desiring a different path

Desiring to be free

He is afraid to turn either left or right

Caught frozen in the middle of who he will or will not be.

Potentially a genius

Potentially a criminal

When choosing to do nothing at all

Will the damage remain minimal?

An adolescent boy

Standing on the brink of life

In a world he just doesn’t understand

Not a child, not a man,

He is looking for guidance, a symbol, a sign; he is looking for a plan.

Thinking maybe

Thinking not

Teetering between action and indecision

Caught falling by the very demons all of his life he has fought.

Potentially a leader

Potentially a felon

When desperate for acceptance

Do gangsters become brethren?

A young man

Living out in a brutal world

Carrying the weight of his own sin

Only human, only a man

He has stumbled and fallen learned to be accountable for his actions

He wants a different path

He wants a different life

So it is hard to understand exactly what he was thinking

Why he was carrying that knife.

Potentially a murderer

Potentially a victim

When you don’t know the facts

It is something hard to fathom.

A young man in a jail cell

Not yet twenty-five years old

Took another human life, for reasons all his own

Only human, only a man

Did he do it for love, power, money or fame? Only to him is the reason known

He wishes it hadn’t happened

He wishes to take it back

But the bloodstains on his shirt and hands

Crimson proof of an undeniable fact

Potential predicted

Potentially rife

With the lack of potential

For a wasted life.

Breaking Ground, New Detention Center, Richmond, Virginia, June 14, 1956. (No none restrictions on publication)

Breaking Ground, New Detention Center, Richmond, Virginia, June 14, 1956. (No none restrictions on publication)

About This Poem

If every human being is born with the potential to be either saint or sinner, what is it that tips the scale for some, and not for others? Can one moment in time determine the outcome? Can someone born into abuse and addiction find their way out, or are they doomed to repeat the cycle? This poem asks the age old question, nature or nurture?


Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on September 16, 2012:

@IntegrityYes - Thank you for the gift of your time, and for the vote, they are both welcomed and deeply appreciated!


IntegrityYes on September 16, 2012:

I voted up for sure.

Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 16, 2011:

@Sharyn's Slant - You are right, no matter what our circumstances we are ultimately we are responsible for our own choices...Thank you as always for the generosity of your time, and for your comments and your support, they are all welcomed and deeply appreciated.


Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on November 16, 2011:

Excellent work here K. Very thought provoking. Definitely reminds me of someone I knew. Ultimately, we have a choice of what path to take no matter what our history teaches us.

I enjoy your work always!


Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 16, 2011:

@Blessed53 - Yes, it is unfortunately a true story. It is the story of someone whom my family and I both know, who was born into this life, but truly has a good heart, and has struggled his whole life to find a way out, and whom my family has often offered a safe haven and morale support too, and who recently just made some bad choices, that put him in the wrong place and landed him exactly where he didn't ever want to be. It is truly a heart-breaking tale. Thank you so much for the generosity of your time, and for your comments, they are always welcome and deeply appreciated.


Blessed53 from Dalton, Georgia on November 16, 2011:

I was wondering all the way through if this were a true story. It could have been my story and should have been but for the grace of God! I'm still living with some of the effects of an addicted/abusive childhood, but thank God He is with me and kept me alive and from killing another as a witness for Him. My last Hub touches on this struggle. More will be revealed, but this was an awesome reminder for me of where I might have ended up. So sad, but so true more and more so today as our culture reaps the ravaging effects of the epidemic proportions of drugs in our society today and the left-overs of our parents' generations. So sorry this didn't make the competition!

Scroll to Continue

God bless the poor man society let down and his victims!

Always, in all ways, to God the honor and glory!

Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 07, 2011:

@homesteadbound - It is true that the odds against children of abusive alcholic/addict homes are most definietly at higher risk, it is just as true that children who are privliged and from loving homes sometimes inexplicabley go down the same road, while children from these situations, turn it around and like you yourself, go on to have amazingly normal lives.


Cindy Murdoch from Texas on November 05, 2011:

Even though this was written about a boy, I was beside him feeling the pain in my childhood brought on by an alcoholic father. Your words rang so true. I was able to pull out of my destiny, but my sister both continued his destructive behavior in their lives. It is so sad. This was a great poem that lays out the path so well.

Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 03, 2011:

@smbunlimited - I fear that I am the one who is unworthy, and am humbled by your gracious praise. Thank your for the generosity of your time, your comments, and your support, all are welcomed and appreciated.


smbunlimited from Washington on November 03, 2011:

WOW!! Awesome work--I am not worthy!! I definitely felt this one!

Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 02, 2011:

@Trinity M - This piece arose from the true story of someone that I and my family actually know who grew up in this type of a situation, and desired, very much so, to not end up as a statistic, and in the end, got himself into the kind of trouble that he truly was trying to avoid. It is very sad, and when I found out what had happened, I hugged my son too....They can so easily be lost....Thank you so very much for the generosity of your time, your gracious comments,and your well wishes, they are always welcome and appreciated!


Trinity M on November 02, 2011:

Wow Kristen, very moving. Made me go and give my 6 year old son another hug. Voted up! BTW, Good luck with the competition.

Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 02, 2011:

@always exploring - It is true that without love or guidance the potential for a decent life is lessened, and yet, as poohgranma pointed out, many have been born into similar circumstance and made it through to become wonderful humanitarians, while just as many, have been blessed with all of the necessary tools, and still come up lacking.... I just don't know if we will ever fully understand the human condition... Thank you so much for your gracious comments, they are so deeply appreciated!


Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on November 02, 2011:

Beautifully written..Cold reality from birth to adulthood, if love and guidance is lacking, the child is lost..Thank you..

Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 01, 2011:

@b.Malin - I thank you from my heart my friend for your time, and for the gracious comments that you leave, they are always deeply appreciated!


Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 01, 2011:

@Poohgranma - Funny you should mention that.... I wrote this piece a couple of weeks ago and was "saving" it as my first entry for the Patron of the Arts Contest....Was so excited this morning about the contest that I jumped the gun a bit! Am working up several pieces for the contest and so all will work out. It is a sad and stark reality, and I fear that although I have posed many questions in this piece as to how one reaches such a place, I am no closer to any real answers... Thank you as always my dear friend for the generosity of your comments and your unwavering support, they are both deeply appreciated! Many hugs!


Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 01, 2011:

@Movie Master - Thank you for your generous comments and the compliment, it was one of the last pictures taken of me and my dad together, and I like it very much. I picked the title, I think before or as I was writing the poem....I believe it was a result of my thinking about how it would take a certain body of time and circumstance to push a person in that direction....Thanks again for the generosity of your time, as always, it is appreciated and welcomed.


Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 01, 2011:

@jami l.pereira - Thank you for the generosity of your comments and for your time, both are welcome and appreciated.


b. Malin on November 01, 2011:

A Big sigh for this Horrific Pome ...did he ever stand a chance...So Sad, so Predictable, but wishing it were not. So well written from the heart and from the soul...Wow, K. Burns...Wow. A Vote UP for this one.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on November 01, 2011:

A perfect title to an amazing poem, voting up.

Your new profile picture with your father is beautiful.

My best wishes to you MM

Poohgranma from On the edge on November 01, 2011:

But for a few hours this would have been entered and a sure winner of the November contest. This is as fine as anything I have read in a long time and the message is one that tells the absolute truth. It can go either way - nature or nurture? I have seen, as we all have, those brought up in the worst of homes become wonderful caring adults and those who seemed to have it all, turn to lives that cause unspeakable heartache and pain to all who they come into contaact with.

Very insightful, hard hitting winner here!

jami l. pereira on November 01, 2011:

Wow! amazing write ! i voted up all the way across the board ! except funny , of course.Bravo! thanks for the read!:)

Kristen Burns-Darling (author) from Orange County, California on November 01, 2011:

@saddlerider1 - Many thanks to you my dear friend for the generosity of your compliments. It is such a sad and tragic situation, and unfortunately it is a true one as well. I actually wrote this about someone I knew....His life was a series of tragedies, and although I, and many others, knew his desire to get away from it all and live a different life, even with our support, he somehow managed to get himself right back to where he started out...... Very sad indeed. I am very happy that you managed to "get out" and that as a result, I and the world have been blessed with your beautiful gift of poetry! Thanks again!


saddlerider1 on November 01, 2011:

The imagery was stark, I don't wish this upon any young man. I lived this and felt every word you wrote. I knew the pain, anger, abuse, hell and the whole nine yards. I hope many read this brilliant piece. I rate it High Up, awesome and beautiful. You did a great job on the subject. May all boys, teens find a way, a better way. I was lucky, I found my mentor and eventually he became my Muse.

Related Articles