“. . . women ‘hear each other into speech’ . . . making it possible for women to say things they have never said before, to think thoughts they would have suppressed. . . . new stories are born, and women who hear and tell their stories are inspired to create new life possibilities for themselves and all women.” – Carol Christ, Diving Deep and Surfacing
Last week, in place of our regular weekly class, we opened the circle to include invited guests. There were inmates from other units. Also mentors from the community, as well as those who support our work on the outside. All told, we had close to 40 seated in a large open circle in the multi-purpose room inside CRCF.
Ten writers’ works were read, and everyone participated in read-back lines. As a result, we have a robust ‘found poem’ from those lines. In addition, everyone participated in sharing their thoughts after hearing the readings, in the form of ‘what do you take with you and what do you leave behind as a result of this evenings’ words?’
The comments were powerful and perceptive; and since we only do this twice a year, it feels important to share at least some of them here. Through these comments, those not present for the reading may get a small sense of the charged atmosphere of the small windowless room. Thanks also to our assistants in the audience who seamlessly helped quiet passing throngs of loud inmates; organize pad and pen distribution and retrieval; and keep things moving smoothly from start to finish.
I will remember the applause! I take words of wisdom with me. I hope I left behind good memories.
The read-around is amazing. It was nice to hear everyone’s words, especially about families. I will remember all the words that I have heard tonight. And how I took it all into my heart. Thank you for tonight 🙂
Hearing these voices, I am hopeful for each speaker’s future. It was inspiring to hear joy, fear, hope, anger, understanding — all in an hour. Encouragement, I hope.
“One voice … a sentence can change history.” Healing voices can heal others. The butterfly effect.
I am taking away a great appreciation for the women around me. Those that continually fight an endless battle to love, be loved and feel acceptance. A greater curiosity of the mothers who fought for the privileges I carry with me now.
What did you take with you tonight? All the magic of the words; the expressions of all those faces and hum of the voices. What do you want to leave behind? The sadness that I do not come to the class as often as I want.
I will take with me a grounded sense of hope. I will leave behind judgment.
I will take with me the strength of perseverance from those within. I will leave behind hope for all still there that they can maintain hope and optimism for their futures.
I take nothing but I gain everything from the willingness of these writers to share with us. I leave behind my thanks for the perspective of people in my community.
I will take the knowledge that every soul is a diamond. I leave the bonds that link us as friends and travelers on the same road.
Take with me – beauty, even in dark places. Leave behind – the idea that beauty happens only in happy places.
I am taking the enjoyment of the whole group. I will see you again. I’m taking the thought of not being alone with me.
Take with – appreciation for the effort to move toward the light.
I will take inspiration and hope for a better tomorrow for women who have been or are incarcerated. I’ll leave the pain and sorrow.
I will take away a sense that writing and sharing about sadness is helpful. I will leave behind my admiration for the strength it takes to be, and to write and to carry on.
I will take the positive words that were so well put together from the group. They were amazing poems. Well done, ladies. Thank you!
Take with you – I will take the words of all the readers in my heart. Leave behind – my last read-around and work with awesome facilitators.
I will take the courage, the perseverance, the ability to find some laughs. I will leave behind a bit of my heart and some prayers for everyone in the room.
Emotions everyone put into writing will stay with me. Fear of unknown I leave behind.
I didn’t expect what I heard this evening – it was great, such good writers. Very powerful. Wisdom.
I will take grace and encouragement. I will leave behind my emptiness.
DREAMS WITHIN DREAMS – found poem from 4.21.16 read-around
I was beginning to fall backwards
into spiraling blackness,
moonless nights strewn with obstacles,
broken, shattered, concerned,
raining hopeless anger
and worried, worried, worried
Fear is a driving force.
I have stood in the cold
when darkness chased away my light.
My body has a story to tell you
eyes like tunnels
excavating words unspoken.
Time is something I can’t have back.
I fear I may be fossilized before my form is discovered.
How long will it take to rebuild a life?
Long enough to know my fist can unfold,
awaken with hope and love.
You can’t get lost while you hold it
knowing what we need to change.
I put my trust in the same lessons
my mother taught me.
Love grows up
like a giant beanstalk all the way to heaven.
There is no stronger bond –
can’t live without it.
We are the toughest necks in town.
Wise women’s work is never too late,
mothers stretched out behind us
bowed heads linked like armor,
a single root lengthening around us all
to empower the world.
My heart is whole again.
I kneel before what I love
new friends with the unknown
giving all my love to my four angels.
As I step from the circles I know I mean to broaden them,
how my hands leave ripples in the world
and the taste of understanding
in each woman’s tender face
starving the thoughts that go into self-doubt.
If you look you will find the shape of yourself
ride on into the garden of life
as strong as can be.
The day will come sooner than later.
The secret is to start from scratch.
She has a name – SURVIVOR.