the bitter and the sweet

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One of the most bitter-sweet aspects of writing with incarcerated women is the attachments we form over time. We are sad at parting when in fact it is pure optimism and joy that propels each woman from the womb-circle of the writing group back into the world beyond walls. Equally poignant and heart-rending is a woman’s return to jail, for whatever reason. Whether she has lost her residence (as often as not unrelated to her own actions) or lost her hold on staying clean, it is a truly bitter-sweet reunion. Glad to see her, know that she is safe weighs in the balance with sadness at her inability to carry her life forward with the promise she radiated at release.

Tonight, we had such a reunion with one of our long-time writers. At the end of the circle, she wrote “I missed you guys. Thanks for taking me back under your wing.”

During group, we had invited women to write from the perspective of an animal, perhaps one that spoke to recent conflict or difficulty in her life. This is what CS wrote so eloquently:


As she flies above the land below,
stretches of bright blue skies engulf her sight.
Free as the bird she is,
she flies miles to search all that is known to mother nature.
Flying one day in the glare of the shining sun
she’s blinded and loses sight of where she’s going.
Snap! Crash! Falling darkness.
She hits bottom.
Her red wings seem to drip blood,
but not sure, ‘cause the colors seep together.
Scared, she cannot fly. Yet she can’t even walk
‘cause she never learned how.
Dropped by her own mother out of her nest at such a young age,
she feels abandoned and hurt once again.
So she lies there in hope for help,
scared that she may be attacked or even killed
in the position this has left her in. Will she accept death?
The sun goes down, the chill of the night seeps in,
noises creep in the shadows.
Earlier she hobbled with her broken wings
and hid as best she could from the strangers of the night.

Morning awaits. As she opens her eyes, she sees
a giant standing above her. Frightened, she sings,
or tries to, for fear she will be hurt more by this stranger.
She’s seen these strangers before; is wearied by them.
The human picks her up as gently as possible.
They drive to a city. She sees all these big buildings
as they stop at one of them. They get out
and enter this big structure. She has never been in one
so curiosity and fear take over. Darkness again
takes over her eyelids. As she awakens, she sees
a bandage upon her wing and food hung above her head.
I have been saved! Some day she will fly again,
be free, be happy; but will watch her surroundings,
so her life will no longer be captive.


. . . and you?

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