creating a narrative

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Many of us are familiar with the basic, linear plot line: beginning, middle, end. There is a start, a problem, a rising action, a climax, a falling action, a finish. The central character, the community is altered, thrown through a series of events that unfold in a linear way. This is a very basic idea.

A couple weeks ago, I went in and encouraged everyone to write stories about solace, about times when the world fell away and they felt safe. Many of them said that those times were rare. When we came back together, one woman said it was hard to tell stories when most of the time, her stories started in the middle and jumped all over the place. They bent time around central ideas and she thought they would be difficult to understand.

We discussed alternative narrative structures, particularly spiral narratives that return to a central event or theme to explore it at greater depth at each pass thereby expanding the knowledge of that event or theme. Essentially, it is a story that returns to a center the narrative (and therefore the reader) is continually discovering. It is essential that each of us provide ourselves new stories of who we are in what say and how we say it. It allows us to expand beyond what imprisons us. I told her that her story was more clear than she thought.

Within these relationships, those that are formed within the walls of the prison, on the page, between all those writing, and time and space, the narrative slips out of the linear into expansion where we are all allowed the room for discovery and travel without moving. It is a gift we offer one another, voices as boundless as ourselves and our stories. These women are not done. We witness the unfinished.

Below you’ll find the found poem created by all our words.


Cherish me for what I am,
not for what I’ve done.
I hope for solace every day,
every movement is a collision of puddles.

I never did have much luck.
Jail became my solace.
I still cling to some small hope
they’ll overlook everything I’ve ever done.

What could save me?
Cerulean lakes, red rocks, snow-tipped peaks,
windows down, scent of the outside world
I think back.

Solace in stretches of road where I was alone,
being the navigator, swirl in my stomach,
praying to God. I can’t even think.
Highways, a mirage of a middle path unknown.

Embrace the bittersweet aroma
immediately I know I’m going to like it
here. Memories slow between mountains,
kind of magical, moves with such familiarity.

. . . and you?

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