fire in the eyes

stock footage - roses on fire

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The skull-light is not forgiving . . . it sees what it sees. Yet when one sees and senses thusly, then one has to work to do something about what one sees. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes,“Vasalisa and the Doll,” in Women Who Run with the Wolves

This week we finished the fourth part of the story Vasalisa and the Doll, retold and interpreted by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with the Wolves, a collection of tales that speak to different aspects of women’s psyches. Writers inside Vermont’s Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility have read, worked with, discussed and written to prompts pulled from this story in the course of four sessions over the summer.  To a writer, abundant insights have emerged.

In particular, when asked at the end of this week’s group ‘what do you see in a new light or what have you let burn away’ each participant had a striking insight to share. Perhaps the most startling was a gray-haired woman whose writing — until this week — was often permeated with a kind of victim-identification. But suddenly out of the story line quoted, above, came a fierce story of empowerment and reclamation that surprised even herself. And at the end of the group, she responded: “I saw my life in a new light. I realize I have the power, like Vasalisa’s doll. No doll, thought; just what’s in me.”

These are moments we live for, whether in jail or out. Moments of self-insight that we can name, hold on to and remember. Even her posture and tone of voice changed with her revelation. It was worth every hurdle getting inside to witness this moment with her. The writing that revealed this new-found truth follows:


The Fire is burning,
glowing hot and glowing bright.
All you who are evil,
all you who are unworthy of life
turn to embers, ash, and dust.
For you with your devil powers
placing your ugly spells
on the worthy and tired and the poor,
I cast all your deceit
all your desire to destroy
your every fiber
into the glowing, hot beauty of my Fire.

Be gone; nothing can save you.
I have consumed your evil,
for the Fire in my skull
is more powerful than you could ever imagine.
The Fire in my skull is everlasting,
can not be touched by you.

Be gone, incinerate. You are nothing.
I cast this almighty spell, I have power over you.
I am now your master.
But wait! Master of what?
You are no more, you are nothing,
just embers, ashes and dust.

. . . and you?

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