Tonight’s group of incarcerated women writers was filled with 14 participants, several of them for the first time. Despite multiple interruptions from outside, they remained focused and eager to follow an unusual sequence for the evening. After opening with the long and powerful poem, “This is the Hour” by The Hopi Nation Elders, they moved into a short ten-minute writing time; then were offered magazine images from which to select two or three. Another short writing about what those images raised for them was followed by comparing the original and final writings to see what connections, if any, existed.
To a woman, they were intrigued by what they found. Finally, collaging these images finished the evening on a high note. One participant, AA, wrote a tender-comic interview which she later connected with a series of images that spoke to the insights she, like many of these women, often conceal inside. Her words follow:
“Where do you live?”
“Gosh. I don’t want to say.”
When you say I’m homeless, they always look with dismay.
“Where was your last place of residence?”
Now it’s getting intense.
“What’s the address of yesterday’s stay?”
“How long did you stay there?”
I look down. “Just a day.”
“Do you have any close family?”
I look up. “Hell, yes! I’ve got many.”
“What’s your means of income?”
The look she gives says she thinks I am dumb.
“I fly a sign I put out on a can.”
“Isn’t that a crime?” “Not where I sit. It’s just fine.”
“What’s some of your goals?”
“I’d like some shoes without holes.”
“What’s your future plan?”
“It’s to be just as I am.”
After making my collage, I found the following connections between my earlier writing and the collage:
Everything goes up.
They are strong and can hold themselves up.
They can bring benefits to many.
They require time.
They are something to watch.
With love and respect, they go far.
They start at the bottom, then rise.
They relate because people judge by looks and what they see; that’s how they decide whether it’s good or bad, instead of history; and what they miss may be sad.