When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. –Mahatma Gandhi
I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t. – Audre Lorde
There is struggle in prison. That comes as a surprise to no one. Even when entering, passing through doors that buzz before they open, electricity clicking them wide and then slamming shut them behind us, people passing through and around, head counts, searches, this is an incontrovertible truth, a reality. This is the kind of tension incarcerated women live with every day.
Since its inception, prison was designed to distance an individual from their identity, giving people numbers and uniforms. Even the fruit punch at chow is served without a color. It’s clear. The space, particularly at CRCF, can have the potential to rehabilitate but on what foundation is this built when women are not given the tools to create and maintain their individual identities? What truths can we gather in such a limited space?
That’s where the writing comes in. The page is meditative space where we are made more free no matter what walls surround us, whether we built them or someone else did, whether they need to come down or provide support for a bit longer. Here is where the digging happens and these women are deeply equal to it, aware of truths that come through this quiet practice and the conditions in which they live. It is a conversation with each other and themselves that builds volume the longer we write. It is a struggle to get to the page, to stay there, to mine its honesty but hopefully in reading their work, you’ll find that it is well worth it.
Below, you’ll find the found poem from this week. I want to credit the italicized phrase – it is a quote from George Orwell.
Put on the spot, taunted, in a process of being vindictive
aided with deceit, gaining power and control
out of which seeps your life’s blood.
What you’ve never envisioned is facing fear, the reality,
its meaty substance. You get sucked into a crowd like a galaxy
into a black hole. An ocean bed of lies
held in is hungry, desperate, dangerous, the tide
to envelope your identity, leads to soul-sickness
sucked dry to your bones.
Mind, the fear, stretches to the far corners, from fingertip
to fingertip. Your foundation is built with dust
in bending reality’s truth.
But if one stay’s safe comfortable, do we test our limits?
In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Only digging through the soil
can we find the essences of what will make us grow,
the beauty that comes from it, weathering storms.
How we break down,
metamorph into a butterfly, sing words leaving the tongue,
remember what made you, harness
what we lose into adulthood,
grow bravecourageousbigbeautiful, wrangler of spiders,
need this to climb out: truth in the unveiling of beauty,
a snapshot of tiny pearls.
We leave the crowd behind us along with the cocoon,
with each lesson you are more able
to love yourself.
Write for those women who do not speak—a beginning
and end that will be pure and true. What’s kept in the dark
spins the thread that connects us all.
For those scared to ask for help, scared the world would surely
fall apart, you will speak. You, given knowledge to bear, will talk.
You have arrived, freely.